Arab world’s first nuclear reactor completed in UAE, in cooperation with South Korea
LONDON - Construction of the Arab world’s first commercial nuclear reactor has been completed in the United Arab Emirates. The plant is part of the country’s long-term strategy to decrease its reliance on fossil fuels.
The Barakah nuclear power plant, in western Abu Dhabi, is a joint project between the UAE’s Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).
UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan toured the $20 billion facility with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and announced on March 26 the completion of the construction“This is a historic moment in our nation’s development as we celebrate the construction completion of Unit 1 of the Barakah nuclear energy plant,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“The UAE peaceful nuclear energy programme will play a strategic role in the growth of our nation by enhancing our energy security, diversifying our economy and creating employment opportunities for our people, thereby helping secure the future of generations to come.”
Emirati officials said Barakah was the world’s largest single nuclear project. When completed, the plant’s four reactors will have a capacity to generate 5,600 megawatts of electricity.
“Nuclear energy generation represents a viable and attractive source of electricity for the UAE from economic, environmental, reliability of supply and national infrastructure development perspectives,” stated a 2017 report by British research firm Timetric. “The government forecasts that natural gas supplies — the principal fuel for power generation in the UAE — will not be sufficient to meet the future demand and it plans to utilise the available nuclear energy as an alternative source.”
Timetric said the Barakah reactors would cover 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs and save up to 12 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
ENEC Chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak predicted “a strategic role” for nuclear energy in the UAE.
“This milestone is a testament to the vision and commitment of the UAE’s leadership and the strength of ENEC’s partnership with our prime contractor and joint venture partner, KEPCO. Now, our focus is on the transition to the safe start-up of Unit 1 nuclear operations,” he said.
The UAE’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency Hamid al-Kari last year said South Korea as well companies in the United States, Russia and France would provide nuclear fuel for the reactors.
ENEC is awaiting approval from UAE nuclear regulator the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation to allow the plant to begin operations.
Saudi Arabia is building 16 nuclear reactors at a cost of $80 billion over 25 years, Bloomberg News reported. Riyadh is expected to soon receive bids for the project from China, Russia, South Korea, France and the United States.
Saudi Arabia might find resistance in the United States after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said Saudi Arabia would develop a nuclear weapon “as soon as possible” if Iran acquired such a capability.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Saudi Arabia would work with other international partners if the United States does not participate in a potential nuclear power technology deal.