Barakah signals a new era of nuclear power in the Middle East
Last month, the UAE became the first Arab nation to send a probe to Mars. On Saturday, the UAE achieved another milestone by becoming the only Arab country to produce nuclear energy, at the Barakah power plant in Abu Dhabi.
The nation persevered with its space ambitions despite the coronavirus pandemic. It has now proved that it does not plan to back down on other goals, such as preserving the environment while expanding the economy.
Nuclear power is a cleaner source of energy than fuel as it does not produce any air pollution. Nuclear waste from the plant will be transferred to dry storage, where it will stay for 40 years. Developing this programme will help fight climate change and allow the UAE to plan for a post-oil future.
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The end goal is for nuclear power to provide one quarter of the country's energy needs, according to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. That would reduce the country’s carbon footprint by 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year By the end of 2020, Unit 1 of the Barakah power plant will begin providing clean energy to businesses and homes in the UAE.
This mammoth project has been underway since 2008, with construction taking more than a decade to complete and to be up to international safety standards. Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees the peaceful use of nuclear energy worldwide, welcomed the latest milestone.
The Emirates’ ambitious space programme and its nuclear energy plant are both fruits of long-term planning, underpinned by the dedicated work of talented Emiratis and residents of other nationalities. That these plans have not fallen through despite the ongoing pandemic shows a high level of national commitment. It is also testament to the steadfastness of the vision for the country’s future. These projects are in line with Ghadan 21, a comprehensive set of reforms and projects aimed at bolstering a knowledge-based economy in the UAE, which was launched last year.
Diversification efforts are a strategic priority for Gulf countries that rely in large part on oil for their development. Striving to create job opportunities and growth in non-oil sectors is crucial, especially while oil demand remains low. And projects such as the Barakah power plant are drivers of economic diversification that can help start a green revolution in the region, with a progressive bent. This includes empowering more women to join the workforce. Forty per cent of staff at the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, which oversees the project, are women.
Diversification efforts are a strategic priority for Gulf countries that rely in large part on oil for their development
The UAE’s nuclear energy programme also demonstrates the importance of international co-operation. Barakah has been successful, in part, thanks to South Korean expertise, as the project has been developed in partnership with the Korea Electric Power Corporation. Multilateralism is all the more vital at a time of international public health and economic crises.
Clean energy will create more opportunities, and the sector can provide a better future for the Middle East. The UAE has proved once more that investing in strategic sectors for the long term prepares nations to face the challenges ahead.
Published: August 3, 2020 08:00 AM