UAE marks one year since operations began at Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant

Power station is leading the largest decarbonisation effort in the Arab World

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One year ago today, the UAE made history. It was on April 18, 2021, that commercial operations began at Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.

Barakah Unit 1 opening marked a milestone for the UAE, as it become the Arab world's first country to run a nuclear programme.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation said in a statement on Monday that in the past year, energy produced by Unit 1 had prevented the release of more than five million tonnes of carbon emissions.

This is the quantity of emissions that would have been released if fossil fuels had instead been used to generate the power.

It is the equivalent to more than “one million cars driven for a year”, officials said

“Unit 1 of the Barakah Plant has generated more than 10.5 terawatt hours of clean electricity, powering homes and businesses across the UAE and enabling businesses to become more sustainable and access ESG [environmental, social and governance] funding through clean energy certification,” Enec said.

A terawatt is 1,000 gigawatts — or one million, million watts. A terawatt hour is a unit of energy equal to outputting one terawatt of energy for one hour.

“The Barakah plant is leading the largest decarbonisation effort in the Arab world and sustainably and securely powering the UAE on its path to net zero,” Enec said, referring the UAE's plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The four units of the Barakah plant. Two are already in operation. Photo: Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation

The four units of the Barakah plant will produce enough electricity to cover 25 per cent of the country’s energy needs. It is now halfway towards this goal.

Unit 2 of the plant started commercial operations on March 24, 2022, less than a year after Unit 1.

Unit 3 construction was completed in 2021 and is undergoing operational readiness preparations, while Unit 4 is close to completion.

The development of the Barakah Plant as a whole is now more than 96 per cent complete.

“We are proud to be celebrating the first anniversary since the start of commercial operations of Unit 1 of the Barakah plant,” Enec chief executive Mohamed Al Hammadi said.

“The plant is a sustainable powerhouse for the nation, generating abundant emissions-free electricity 24/7. Barakah is a leading contributor to the UAE’s net-zero target and we are rapidly decarbonising the power sector.

“We have offered hundreds of jobs to Emiratis and international experts and will continue to inspire a generation of clean electricity champions and climate change leaders to join our programme in the years to come.”

Enec oversees the plant, while Nawah Energy Company is the operator.

The corporation on Monday also said scheduled maintenance will now take place on Unit 1, which involves shutting down the reactor and replacing around a third of the fuel assembles in the reactor core.

“During this time, over 1,000 additional nuclear specialists have joined the existing team at Barakah to undertake this process in line with the highest national regulations and international standards,” Enec said.

“On completion, the unit will be restarted and powered back up to full power to run for another 12 months. This planned refuel process will take place on each unit every 12 months.”

By 2025, the Barakah Plant is set to produce 85 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s clean electricity and will be the biggest contributor to reducing the UAE power sector’s carbon emissions.

Updated: April 18, 2022, 2:59 PM