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Operating licence issued for Arab world’s first nuclear power plant

18 February 2020

The United Arab Emirates issued an operating licence on February 17 for the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant. The licence opens the way for the Barakah power plant to begin production later this year.

Barakah plant under construction in 2017 - Image: Wikimedia/Wikiemirati
Barakah plant under construction in 2017 - Image: Wikimedia/Wikiemirati

The plant is still under construction and is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) in Abu Dhabi. Once operating, it will be the first nuclear power station in the UAE and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the first commercial nuclear power station in the Arab World. Its construction cost is expected to be around $24.4 billion. 

Having originally been scheduled to open in 2017, start-up of the Barakah plant’s first reactor has been delayed several times. When completed, the plant will have four reactors with a total capacity of 5,600 megawatts (MW).

The UAE is building the Barakah plant as part of its move to diversify its energy mix. The oil rich nation wants nuclear power to make up around 6% of its energy supply by 2050 in order to meet rising demand for electricity and free up more crude oil for export.

The plant’s owner, Nawah Energy Company, has been granted a 60-year operating licence by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). Nawah Energy is now able to begin loading nuclear fuel into its first reactor, a process which will take several weeks, as preparations for commercial operations begin. 

Christer Viktorsson, Director-General of FANR, told a news conference on February 17 that Nawah will need to conduct tests before any power production can begin, however if these go well then production could begin by May or June. He added that it would take eight to 12 months for the first reactor to reach its full production capacity. Hamad al-Kaabi, Deputy Chairman of FANR said that construction of the plant's second reactor was 95% complete and that FANR had started looking into an operating license for it. 

In January, UAE state news agency WAM said that the Atlanta Center of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) had conducted an operational readiness assessment and concluded that the first of the four planned reactors was fit for its start-up phase.

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