UAE becomes Arab world's first nuclear energy nation as Barakah reaches major milestone

The loading of nuclear fuel into the first of four reactors at the site is seen as the official start of operations

The cold hydrostatic test for Unit 4 at UAE's first nuclear power plant has been completed. Courtesy: Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation 
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The UAE has become the Arab world’s first nuclear energy nation, the operators of the region’s most advanced power plant have said.

A major milestone at the Barakah nuclear power station was completed in recent days, paving the way for the plant to begin powering homes and businesses across the UAE.

The loading of nuclear fuel into the first of four reactors at the site, which together will eventually provide up to 25 per cent of the UAE's energy, is seen as the official start of operations and was completed over the past fortnight.

Although not yet feeding power into the electricity grid, that landmark is expected to be completed within the coming months after the first reactor is switched on and gradually powers up.

“Our teams have been training over the years to safely progress towards providing the UAE with clean, reliable and abundant electricity to power our economic and societal growth,” Mohamed Al Hammadi, chief executive of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, said.

“Today, we are very proud as the UAE joins a limited group of nations who have achieved the global standards necessary to become peaceful nuclear operating nations.

"We take this responsibility very seriously and our teams and our teams are safely and steadily transitioning through the sophisticated highly regulated process to advance unit one towards full electrical generation capacity."

Of the four reactors at the plant, the first has been fully built and the other three are between 85 per cent and 95 per cent finished.

The fuel was loaded into the first unit following the granting of an operating licence from the UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Generation last month.

The operation was completed by a team made up almost entirely of Emirati experts, who trained in South Korea, which has been working with the UAE to build the plant.

The next stages will see that first reactor slowly geared up, with rigorous testing taking place until it gradually hits full capacity.

The plant has been more than a decade in the making, with the UAE revealing its ambitions to pursue a nuclear energy programme in 2008.

“Barakah is more than an energy plant,” Mr Al Hammadi said. “It brings prosperity and value to the UAE with new industrial and human capacity, it significantly improves the carbon footprint and energy security of the nation, and accelerates the decarbonisation of the power sector to contribute to alleviating global climate change.”