READY TO LEAD THE DRY­LANDS

Lady Bar­bara Judge CBE has strong views on sub­jects rang­ing from nu­clear power to gen­der equal­ity in the oil and gas sec­tor. She also be­lieves that Qatar has the right con­di­tions to pur­sue nu­clear en­ergy.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - By Sindhu Nair

Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Badr Omar Al Dafa an­nounced to the diplo­matic com­mu­nity in Doha that the Global Dry­lands Al­liance is all set to launch this May.

If Lady Bar­bara Judge, Mem­ber of the UAE Ad­vi­sory Board for the Devel­op­ment of Peace­ful Nu­clear En­ergy, looks for­mi­da­ble in her cus­tom­ary dark suit, high-col­lared, stiff white shirt, and her white blonde hair tucked into a stern bun at the nape of her head, it is de­lib­er­ate. Ev­ery­thing about her es­pe­cially her out­fit, which doesn't change much around the year, is res­o­lute. “Men are un­com­fort­able around women and why dress in provoca­tive out­fits when you need them to lis­ten to what you have to say?” she asks. “I want men to be so bored with my out­fit that they have to fo­cus on what I am say­ing.” And in that sense, the Arab women's cul­ture of dress­ing – the black abaya – res­onates with her; she says, “You can­not go wrong with that.”

Lady Judge be­lieves very strongly in equal­ity in the work­place, en­cour­ag­ing women to en­ter the work­place and, once they are there, push the bound­aries, all be­cause of the sim­ple wis­dom passed on to her by her mother: “Women should work not be­cause they are poor or alone, di­vorced or sin­gle, not any of that, [ but] be­cause they have a brain, they should use it and they should earn their own money. Money is in­de­pen­dence and they should be in­de­pen­dent.”

Speak­ing at the Gulf In­tel­li­gence Women in En­ergy Sum­mit held last month in Doha on “His­tor­i­cal Set­ting – One Woman's 50Year Jour­ney,” Lady Judge re­counted her ca­reer highs and some road­blocks faced and scaled in an era when women pro­fes­sion­als were rare, es­pe­cially in cor­po­rate board­rooms. She started her ca­reer as a cor­po­rate lawyer in 1969 and be­came a part­ner at Kaye Sc­holer, Fier­man, Hays & Han­dler in 1978. One rea­son she was hired, she re­counts, was be­cause they wanted a woman to fill the po­si­tion. Half a decade later, she still be­lieves in the quota sys­tem: “You need to first get onto the lad­der in or­der to climb to the top.”

But gen­der bal­ance in the in­dus­try is not the only sub­ject that ex­cites Lady Judge; it is also clean en­ergy and specif­i­cally nu­clear en­ergy. In 2002 she was ap­pointed as a Direc­tor of the United King­dom Atomic En­ergy Author­ity, be­came its Chair­man in 2004 and was reap­pointed in 2007. Af­ter com­plet­ing two terms she was ap­pointed Deputy Chair­man of the Tepco Nu­clear Re­form Com­mit­tee and Chair­man of its Task Force on Nu­clear Safety.

Her tryst with the Mid­dle East be­gan seven years ago, when she was last in Doha, to give a talk on clean en­ergy. She had then pre­dicted that the Mid­dle East coun­tries are best suited for nu­clear power projects be­cause th­ese coun­tries meet the con­di­tions nec­es­sary to ini­ti­ate this form of re­new­able en­ergy. “A sta­ble po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, a rich coun­try that can af­ford to build and main­tain a nu­clear power plant, a strong and en­light­ened lead­er­ship, high ed­u­ca­tion lev­els and an in­tel­li­gent press that can com­pre­hend and re­port the truth to make the gen­eral public aware of the process and the safety mea­sures,” she says, tick­ing off the con­di­tions needed for a coun­try to pur­sue nu­clear en­ergy.

“I pre­dicted then that sooner or later the GCC coun­tries will have nu­clear en­ergy,” she says. “And the naysay­ers scoffed at my state­ment.”

Seven months later, Lady Judge was in Abu Dhabi and met the ruler there, who ex­pressed an in­ter­est in nu­clear en­ergy. Now Abu Dhabi is in the process of build­ing a nu­clear power plant and Lady Judge is on the Ad­vi­sory Board. The Emi­rates Nu­clear En­ergy Cor­po­ra­tion, Unit 1 is ex­pected to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to the grid by 2017 and will be the first one in the re­gion. Plans are on for the fol­low­ing three units to be com­pleted in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Saudi Ara­bia, with 16% of the world's proven oil re­serves and be­ing the largest ex­porter of to­tal petroleum liq­uids in the world, has started to think of nu­clear power plants. “Things are chang­ing. Oil and gas is not for­ever,” she says. While Qataris ear­lier had said that they were not in­ter­ested in nu­clear en­ergy, ac­cord­ing to Lady Judge, they are now con­sid­er­ing the benefits from

this source of en­ergy as their neigh­bours are strongly pur­su­ing it.

“They have the risk any­way, be­ing in close prox­im­ity to Emi­rates Nu­clear En­ergy Plant and Saudi Ara­bia (when it will build its own re­ac­tor). There are also talks of hav­ing a re­gional power plant, and I feel that's the best way to go, by join­ing work­force, ed­u­ca­tion and re­sources,” she says.

“I strongly be­lieve that Qatar with a knowl­edge-based econ­omy has all the con­di­tions for nu­clear en­ergy to thrive,” she says.

Pre­dic­tions aside, it is nec­es­sary for ev­ery coun­try to have a di­ver­si­fied en­ergy mix, states Lady Judge. “Any coun­try that aims at hav­ing en­ergy se­cu­rity or en­ergy in­de­pen­dence would need to have a bou­quet of en­ergy sources; it needs oil, it needs gas, it needs re­new­ables for peo­ple to feel good about car­bon emis­sions and it needs nu­clear en­ergy,” she em­pha­sises.

Cli­mate change is an­other fac­tor that makes nu­clear en­ergy lu­cra­tive. But what about so­lar en­ergy, the most abun­dant source of en­ergy in the desert re­gion? Doesn't it seem more prac­ti­cal to opt for this re­new­able source than an op­tion that comes with its own set of risks? Which source should a coun­try lean to­wards in this sce­nario?

“There is no choice,” she says. “It should be a mix­ture of all sources of en­ergy.”

“So­lar is an ex­cel­lent source of en­ergy in con­di­tions that are favourable but it is still a top-up source of en­ergy. Nu­clear is a baseload en­ergy source. There may be days when there is less sun or still air. When this source of en­ergy fails you could find your­self in dark­ness. What you re­ally need is a com­bi­na­tion,” she clar­i­fies.

Parts of the world at large seem to be against nu­clear power as a source of en­ergy. Ger­many is a per­fect ex­am­ple, with all nu­clear power plants shut down. “It is all a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion in Ger­many,” says Lady Judge. “It demon­strates how wrong it is to turn away from nu­clear en­ergy. Ger­many is now buy­ing nu­clear en­ergy from neigh­bour­ing France and gas from Rus­sia. It is also burning coal and its car­bon emis­sions are go­ing up. The coun­try has gone from be­ing an en­ergy ex­porter to an en­ergy im­porter prac­ti­cally overnight, which brings along with it a num­ber of neg­a­tive con­se­quences for its econ­omy, con­sumers and se­cu­rity.”

But it is also not true that the world is los­ing its nu­clear en­ergy sup­port­ers af­ter the Fukushima in­ci­dent. Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey done some time back, the sup­port for nu­clear power ap­peared to have bounced back in the UK af­ter fall­ing slightly in the af­ter­math of the Fukushima dis­as­ter and, as a re­sult of the re­newed trust shown by the peo­ple, the UK is now build­ing three power plants.

Now there are even more coun­tries pur­su­ing or build­ing nu­clear en­ergy plants than there were be­fore the Ja­pan mishap; Turkey, Viet­nam, Korea, China, In­dia and Fin­land, are all build­ing nu­clear power plants. Poland and Hun­gary are also in the process of dis­cussing prospects.

Lady Judge de­bunks an­other myth: Even though the To­hoku earth­quake and tsunami that struck Ja­pan in March of 2011 was a dis­as­ter of epic pro­por­tions, it was th­ese nat­u­ral dis­as­tesr that left over 15,000 peo­ple dead and over 300,000 home­less. There was a very se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent at Fukushima but, con­trary to the hype and fear, no one died due to the ra­di­a­tion. The prob­lem arose be­cause peo­ple had to be evac­u­ated from their homes. To­day, the food sup­ply is safe and peo­ple are start­ing to move back into their homes and most of the other nu­clear plants in Ja­pan are con­sid­er­ing a restart.

As the Deputy Chair­man of the Tepco Nu­clear Re­form Com­mit­tee and Chair­man of its Task Force on Nu­clear Safety, Lady Judge feels that hav­ing a woman rep­re­sen­ta­tive from out­side the coun­try is sym­bolic of the change that Ja­pan is un­der­go­ing cur­rently. She even has her own in­sights on the on­go­ing an­tag­o­nism for nu­clear en­ergy projects: “The prob­lem in Amer­ica, France and UK is that it is highly ed­u­cated women who are the most vo­cal against nu­clear en­ergy,” she says, and they are the ones who need to be con­vinced about the safety as­pects of ra­di­a­tion. Ed­u­ca­tion is vi­tal ac­cord­ing to Lady Judge and it is only through en­light­en­ing the masses that the mes­sage of nu­clear en­ergy can be spread.

“Abu Dhabi is do­ing it the right way,” she says. “Ed­u­cat­ing the masses through movies and public shows, talk shows at schools and gal­leries.”

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