UAE's nuclear plant 'ready' to begin operations

World Association of Nuclear Operators agree Unit 1 of Barakah is ready to start up

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The UAE is ready to start operating its nuclear power plant's first reactor, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation said on Tuesday.

Nawah Energy Company, the operator and subsidiary of Enec, said tests by an independent body concluded that Unit 1 of Barakah, in Al Dhafra, is ready to generate energy.

A team of nuclear industry experts from the Atlanta Centre of the World Association of Nuclear Operators assessed the plant in November. Experts reviewed performance, maintenance, and emergency preparedness.

[Barakah] will produce clean, safe and reliable electricity to power the growth of the UAE for the next 60 years

Mohamed Al Hammadi, chief executive of Enec, called the results a "major milestone" for the programme.

“It provides international recognition that our plant, people and processes meet international start up standards," Mr Al Hammadi said.

He said Nawah would continue to work with the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation to obtain approvals and "gradually commence producing clean, safe and reliable electricity to power the growth of the UAE for the next 60 years".

Barakah will be the UAE's first nuclear plant and will make the Emirates the first Arab country to produce nuclear energy.

With four reactors, it will add 5.6 gigawatts of capacity to the grid when fully operational, providing a quarter of the UAE's electricity needs and reducing the country's carbon emissions by 21 million tonnes a year.

Barakah is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation and is scheduled to begin operation in the first quarter of this year.

The nuclear plant is also part of plans to significantly increase the ratio of clean power in the UAE's energy mix.

The UAE largely depends on gas and oil to meet its power requirements and, in 2012, got 98 per cent of its energy from hydrocarbons.

It aims to cut this down to 76 per cent by next year and for half of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2050.

The country began construction of its South Korean-designed nuclear power plants in 2013, with four reactors each designed with a capacity of 1.4 gigawatts.

To begin generating power, the reactors are loaded with uranium pellets, which generate heat through a controlled nuclear reaction. This heat is transferred to water, which creates steam to drive the turbines.

The UAE signed a "123 agreement" with the US for the peaceful civilian use of nuclear energy and also has agreements with Argentina, Japan and Russia to co-operate in the atomic power sector.