UAE becomes first Arab nation to produce nuclear energy

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The UAE is the first Arab country to produce nuclear energy, after it was announced on Saturday that Unit 1 of the Abu Dhabi-based Barakah nuclear power plant is now operational.

Commercial operations of the reactor are expected to begin later this year, and will help power businesses and homes across the nation using clean energy.

Unit 1 is now using nuclear fuel to produce energy as part of the ‘criticality’ phase that was initiated on Saturday. The reactor will be connected to the power grid and provide electricity during the upcoming testing phase.

"Today we announce the UAE's success in operating the first peaceful nuclear reactor in the Arab world at Barakah Nuclear Plant Abu Dhabi," , Vice President and Ruler of , said on Twitter

"The teams succeeded in loading nuclear fuel packages, running comprehensive tests and successfully beginning operation. I congratulate my brother for this achievement.

"The goal is to operate four nuclear power plants that will provide one quarter of the country's energy needs in a safe, reliable and emission-free way.

"The UAE split the atom, and wants to explore the galaxy. Our message to the world is that the Arabs are able to resume their scientific ambitions and compete with the rest of the great nations. Nothing is impossible."

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, congratulated the teams on Saturday, calling the milestone a proud moment.

"We proudly witness the start of Barakah nuclear power plant operations, in alignment with the highest international safety standards. Congratulations on realising this historic achievement in the energy sector and marking this milestone in the roadmap for sustainable development," he said.

Mohamed Al Hammadi, chief executive of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, described the achievement as historic.

"It is the culmination of more than a decade of vision, strategic planning and robust program management. Despite the recent global challenges, our team has demonstrated outstanding resilience and commitment to the safe delivery of Unit 1. 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," he said.

"Through the realisation of the vision of our leadership, the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has become an engine of growth for the Nation. It will deliver 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity with zero carbon emissions while also supporting economic diversification by creating thousands of high-value jobs through the establishment of a sustainable local nuclear energy industry and supply chain."

He thanked the UAE's leaders and Enec's South Korean partners for their involvement and support.

Once the unit is connected to the grid, the nuclear operators will carry out continuous tests as they gradually raise the power levels, known as Power Ascension Testing.

Once the process is completed, over the course of a number of months, the plant will deliver abundant baseload electricity at full capacity to power the growth of the UAE for decades to come, reported state news agency Wam.

Engineers at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant Abu Dhabi after the first reactor was turned on. Courtesy: Sheikh Mohammed Twitter 
Engineers at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant Abu Dhabi after the first reactor was turned on. Courtesy: Sheikh Mohammed Twitter

Ali Al Hammadi, chief executive of Nawah Energy Company, the operating and maintenance subsidiary of Enec, said the company was committed to upholding the highest degree of safety, quality and operational transparency.

"I am especially proud of our talented UAE National engineers and nuclear professionals who contributed to the construction of Unit 1, as well as the UAE National Senior Reactor Operators and Reactor Operators who have been certified to safely operate the plant, alongside our international experts, to ensure the safe and sustainable operations of the unit for decades to come," he said.

The operating license for this phase was issued by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, who is overseeing the project, in February and is valid for 60 years.

Situated 280 kilometres away from the capital in Al Dhafra region, the power plant will produce enough electricity to cover 25 per cent of the country’s energy needs. It was also prevent the release of 21 million tons of carbon emissions each year – equal to removing 3.2 million cars from the roads each year.

The station consists of four units that will supply a total of 5,600 megawatts of energy.

Currently, almost all of the country’s energy comes from gas-fired power plants and some from solar fields.

The UAE is the first country in the Arab world and the 33rd globally to develop a nuclear energy plant to generate safe, clean, and reliable baseload electricity.

The country revealed its ambitions to pursue a nuclear energy programme in 2008 and construction has taken more than a decade.

Hundreds of Emiratis have trained in South Korea, as part of UAE’s long-term partnership with the Korea Electric Power Corporation, which is prime contractor and joint venture partner.

Overall construction of the power plant is nearly finished, with 94 per cent already completed.

Reactors 1 and 2 are ready, the third is 92 per cent completed and the last one is 85 per cent finished.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed visits Barakah Nuclear Plant in June:

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed visits the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant. All images courtesy Mohamed bin Zayed / Twitter

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed visits the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed visits the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed visits the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed visits the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed visits the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed visits the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed visits the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.

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Updated: August 1, 2020 12:58 PM

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