When you think about science leadership, you don't often think about United Arab Emirates. Dictatorships don't lend themselves to quality basic research but when they put their minds to applied research and development, and a lot of money, good things can happen.

While environmental activists wish we were a little more dictatorship-oriented when it comes to banning cars, like the Chinese did before the Olympics (for everyone but elites, anyway), plenty of scientists might like to have a more dictatorial, mission-based approach to research in the US, like we had with the Manhattan Project and the NASA Moon landing.

Though 40 percent of the country's gross domestic product is oil and gas, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation wants to advance green energy science - nuclear power.

It's safe and it's green. Living within 50 miles of their nuclear plants will expose people to 0.00042 of the radiation they will get from cosmic rays and the soil and all other natural sources combined. The first plant will be delivering energy in 2017 and by 2020 they expect to have 25% of their energy be emissions-free, without forcing mitigation and rationing on their citizens. They'll still happily get rich selling oil to us, of course.

Scary graphic means science must not be allowed. Actually, this is just daily ultraviolet radiation doses from sunlight vary by latitude and season. Credit: NOAA. Link: Discovery

Their Barakah location was chosen after an analysis that included seismic history, security, distance from large population centers and environmental considerations - you know, science, like we always do before we decide not to do things regardless of the science, like Keystone XL and nuclear power. Barakah has been tectonically inactive for nearly 100 million years. It's basically Yucca Mountain but their project went ahead because they didn't have anti-science activists or a leader determined to kill it. 

Barbara Thomas, Lady Judge, chair of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and a member of the International Advisory Board for the nuclear program, told the audience at a public forum of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, “It’s clearly the best thought-through and resourced nuclear programme in the world today. Everyone is proud to be associated with it.”

It's okay to be jealous, America. At least we have The Daily Show.