In a first for the Arab world, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has begun start-up operations in the initial unit of its first nuclear power plant, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has said.
The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant on the Gulf coast west of Abu Dhabi, a major oil producer, is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). The plant was originally due to open in 2017 but the start-up of its first reactor was repeatedly delayed.
ENEC on Saturday said its subsidiary Nawah Energy Company “has successfully started up Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, located in the Al Dhafrah Region of Abu Dhabi”.
The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, wrote on Twitter that nuclear fuel had been loaded into the first of four units of what he called “the first peaceful nuclear energy reactor in the Arab world”.
“We are now another step closer to achieving our goal of supplying up to a quarter of our nation’s electricity needs and powering its future growth with safe, reliable, and emissions-free electricity,” ENEC’s Chief Executive Mohamed Ibrahim al-Hammadi said.
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The UAE started loading fuel rods into the reactor at Barakah in February, after regulators gave the greenlight for the first of the plant’s four reactors, opening the way for commercial operations.
The Nawah Energy Company said at the time that Unit 1 will begin commercial operations after a “series of tests” leading to the start-up process.
During the process, the unit will be synchronised with the power grid and the first electricity produced.
When completed, Barakah will have four reactors with 5,600 megawatts (MW) capacity. The UAE has not disclosed the total planned investment in the project
The UAE has substantial oil and gas reserves, but with a power-hungry population of 10 million, it has made huge investments in developing clean alternatives, including solar energy.
The nuclear plant is a regional first. Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has said it plans to build up to 16 nuclear reactors, but the project has yet to materialise.