UAE’s first nuclear reactor to start operations ‘within months’

The nuclear plant west of Abu Dhabi was built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation
Sunday 19/01/2020
A 2018 file picture shows the completed construction of the first unit at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Al-Dafrah. (AFP)
Breakthrough. A 2018 file picture shows the completed construction of the first unit at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Al-Dafrah. (AFP)

ABU DHABI - The United Arab Emirates’ first nuclear power plant is to begin operations within a “few months” after delays to meet safety and regulatory conditions, Emirati energy officials said.

The first of the four nuclear reactors at the Barakah plant had been due to come online in late 2017 but was delayed several times.

“Operation (of the first reactor) is scheduled to start within a few months,” Awaidha al-Marar, chairman of Abu Dhabi’s department of energy, said January 13.

He said that the first nuclear fuel would be loaded within the next few months to prepare the reactor for operation. It would be the first operational nuclear reactor in the Arab world.

Chairman and CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company Sultan al-Jaber confirmed that the plant is on course to be operational this year. “To complement our clean energy portfolio, this year in 2020 we will become the first country in the region to deliver safe, commercial and peaceful nuclear power,” Jaber said during opening ceremonies of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

In December, UAE newspaper Al-Ittihad quoted officials at state-owned Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) as saying the first reactor would become operational in the first quarter of 2020.

The nuclear plant west of Abu Dhabi was built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation in a deal worth more than $20 billion. When fully operational, the four reactors should produce 5,600 megawatts of electricity, around 25% of the United Arab Emirates’ needs, the Energy Ministry said.

The United Arab Emirates, a leading oil producer, said it wants 50% of its energy to be generated by clean sources by 2050.

ENEC said on its website it has been cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) to ensure that the nuclear programme conforms with international standards.

Since 2010, the United Arab Emirates has welcomed more than 40 international missions and reviews from the IAEA and WANO, highlighting its commitment to transparency, ENEC said.

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