The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced the initiation of a nuclear power plant, the first of its kind in any Arab country.
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and UAE Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Hamad Alkaabi announced the start-up of the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, reports Reuters.
The plant, being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), was originally due to open in 2017 but start-up of its first reactor was repeatedly delayed.
ENEC said its subsidiary Nawah Energy Company “has successfully started up Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, located in the Al Dhafrah Region of Abu Dhabi.”
The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, wrote on Twitter that nuclear fuel had been loaded into the first of four units of what he called “the first peaceful nuclear energy reactor in the Arab world.”
“We are now another step closer to achieving our goal of supplying up to a quarter of our nation’s electricity needs and powering its future growth with safe, reliable, and emissions-free electricity,” ENEC’s chief executive Mohamed Ibrahim al-Hammadi said.
The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), which issued an operating licence for the plant in February, said Nawah met all regulatory requirements to start operations, after regular inspections and oversight to ensure the plant’s safety.
When completed Barakah will have four reactors with 5,600 megawatts (MW) capacity. The UAE has not disclosed the total planned investment in the project.
"UAE first nuclear reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has achieved first criticality and successfully started up," tweeted UAE representative to IAEA Hamad Alkaabi.
"This is a historic milestone for the nation with a vision set to deliver a new form of clean energy for the nation."
The South Korean-built reactor's commercial operations are set to begin later this year, and will provide power to homes and business in the country, according to the National.
The UAE originally announced its intent to pursue nuclear energy in 2008. It is only the second country in the Middle East to successfully do so, after Iran.
Mohammed bin Rashid, the ruler of Dubai and UAE vice president, congratulated Abu Dhabi's ruler, Mohamed bin Zayed, for the successful initiation of Unit 1 of the facility.
"The goal is to operate four nuclear power plants that will provide one quarter of the country's energy needs in a safe, reliable and emission-free way," he said on Twitter.
"The UAE split the atom, and wants to explore the galaxy. Our message to the world is that the Arabs are able to resume their scientific ambitions and compete with the rest of the great nations. Nothing is impossible."