The United Arab Emirates has issued a nuclear-energy law that brings the country a step closer to implementing a peaceful nuclear-energy programme, it has been announced.

The new law would also lead to the establishment of a local regulatory authority to oversee the programme.

The Federal Law Regarding the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy provides for “the development of a robust system for the licensing and control of nuclear material,” and criminal penalties for its misuse, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs said in a statement.

Federal Law No. 6, which was issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, establishes the independent Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation to oversee the country’s nuclear energy sector, and appoints the regulator’s board, writes Dow Jones.

The law also reiterates the UAE’s pledge not to domestically enrich uranium as part of its plans to build nuclear power plants, the first of which is scheduled for commercial operation in 2017.

The law makes it illegal to develop, construct or operate uranium enrichment or spent fuel processing facilities within the country’s borders.

Annual peak demand for electricity in the UAE is likely to rise to more than 40,000MW by 2020.