Thousands of coral reef settlements surrounding Abu Dhabi's Barakah nuclear power station have been relocated as part of efforts to preserve the environmental diversity of the emirate.
The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) has joined forces with Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) to develop an eco "compensation plan" to safeguard the natural environment in the vicinity of the Arab World's first operational nuclear power plant.
The landmark facility secured a major milestone last month when it was connected to the UAE's power grid and produced its first megawatt of clean and environment-friendly electricity using nuclear energy.
When all four units of the plant are fully operational, it will generate up to 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity while preventing the release of 21 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually, which is equal to removing 3.2 million cars off the roads.
While the production of nuclear energy intends to deliver a major long-term boost to the UAE's carbon footprint, authorities were keen to protect treasured natural resources and marine life.
The preservation project involved about 7,300 coral reef settlements being rehomed, while 22,300 coral reefs have been regrown in a location 17 kilometres north of the Barakah plant.
In addition, 6,000 square metres of artificial coral reef were also completed.
"Since construction of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant commenced in 2012, we have been keen to protect the environment surrounding the plant by adopting best practices for our environmental protection standards, applying international measures to preserve natural habitats, and conserve energy and water resources," said Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, chief executive of Enec.
"These actions will help to ensure that the operation of our plant meets the highest environmental sustainability standards throughout the development and operation of the plant. "
Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, secretary general of EAD, said it was crucial to protect the nation's environmental legacy as it looks forward to a future driven by clean energy.
“We are keeping pace with the UAE, and in particular Abu Dhabi’s urban development activities by continuously striving for environmental sustainability, especially in the utility sector,” she said.
“The agency has completed the process of strategic assessment and environmental studies required to see the project bloom and achieve the desired goal. This was done to achieve the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed in preserving our environmental heritage.”
The environment chief said extensive research had been carried out in recent years to assess the potential impacts on the environment and biological diversity of the construction of the power plant.
EAD said it had reviewed reports submitted by Nawah Energy Company, the operating and maintenance subsidiary of Enec, and conducted a thorough inspection of the plant during the construction and development phase.
Thirty-six quarterly environmental monitoring reports were also studied to analyse the quality of seawater, marine plankton, marine soil, air quality and the existing status of wildlife in the project area.