The United Arab Emirates has adopted a civilian nuclear energy law that paves the way for contracts worth 41 billion dollars for the construction of power plants, WAM news agency reported on Monday.
The law, issued on Sunday by presidential decree, prohibits the enrichment of uranium, the process by which the substance is transformed into nuclear fuel and atomic bombs, the official agency reported.
The UAE has set up the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation to oversee and guarantee nuclear safety and security, and devise a system to accredit workers in the sector across its seven emirates.
"We totally understand the utmost importance of safety and security in using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," said authority chairman Ahmad Mubarak al-Mazrouie.
"We are committed to our role in guaranteeing the benefits of nuclear energy... in such a way that does not impact public safety or the environment," he was quoted as saying.
The regulator has been empowered to punish anyone who steals or conducts illegal trade in nuclear material, a move that came after talks with partners including Britain, France and the United States, according to WAM.
The National newspaper said the adoption of the law makes the UAE the first country in the world to ban uranium enrichment, opting instead for importing its nuclear fuel.
"The government of the UAE has made a commitment in its nuclear energy law to forgo domestic enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear materials," Hamad al-Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency was quoted as saying by The National.
"The UAE believes that it can achieve the necessary degree of fuel security through reliance upon mature and diverse international fuel services market without resort to domestic enrichment or reprocessing."
The Gulf state has invited bids to build nuclear power plants in contracts worth 41 billion dollars. It is seeking to reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons and boost its image as environmentally friendly.
US President Barack Obama approved a civilian nuclear deal with the UAE in May and earlier this year, the UAE signed a nuclear energy deals with France during a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.