Uae Begins Operating Its First Nuclear Power Plant

UAE Begins Operating Its First Nuclear Power Plant

Barakah nuclear reactor, United Arab Emirates (credit: UAE Embassy)

Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates (UAE) has released operating permits for its first nuclear reactor, as the first nuclear power plant in Arabia and the 33rd in the world. The nuclear power plant, named Barakah, is located in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.

The nuclear reactor project was built in collaboration with Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), a SOE from South Korea. The UAE is the only country to have bought a KEPCO reactor.

"The Barakah Nuclear Power Plant is a historic project that enhances the main role of the UAE in the global clean energy transition," the UAE Embassy said in a statement posted on Liputan6.com on Sunday (2/8/2020).

The Barakah power plant will have four reactors with a total capacity of 5,600 megawatts. When fully operational, this nuclear-powered power plant will meet up to 25% of the national electricity demand.

In addition, the presence of the Barakah nuclear power plant also prevents the release of 21 million tons of carbon emissions each year, which is equivalent to eliminating 3.2 million vehicles that produce air pollution.

Initially, the first reactor construction project will open in 2017, but the project has been delayed several times.

The UAE through Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has developed the Nuclear Peace Energy Program in accordance with the highest international standards for nuclear safety, security, transparency, and non-proliferation.

ENEC awarded the Initial Contract for the construction of the Barakah power plant to KEPCO in 2009. The contract is valued at $ 20 billion. KEPCO itself has more than 40 years of experience and expertise in building and operating nuclear energy plants.

The Barakah Nuclear Power Plant is not only a power plant, but also a social, educational and economic stimulus.

Since its development, the UAE Program, through the development of the ENEC and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) has contributed to the ability of the UAE to work in several new fields such as nuclear medicine, the space program and nuclear engineering.

The Barakah Nuclear Power Plant is an example of the country's ability to develop large-scale international projects that are safe despite the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The first unit reactor was successfully operational earlier this month, which was an important step in generating clean electricity using nuclear energy in the UAE for the first time in its history.

While the construction of the second Unit reactor has been completed and is undergoing operational preparation. Completion of the overall construction of the construction of the four power plants will reach 94% in May 2020.

Nuclear energy technology developed at the Barakah power plant reactor, Uranium, is mined, then processed and made into small pellets the size of an adult's nails. Each uranium pellet contains the same amount of energy as one ton of coal and 474 liters of crude oil.

Barakah, which was originally scheduled to open in 2017, has been hampered by project delays. Obstacles also include a development budget of billions of dollars, Al Jazeera reported, quoted on Sunday (2/8/2020).

This also raises a great deal of concern among nuclear energy veterans who worry about potential risks, ranging from environmental disasters to the nuclear arms race.

Paul Dorfman, an honorary senior researcher at the Energy Institute, University College London and founder and chairman of the Nuclear Consulting Group, has criticized the design of the Barakah reactor which he says is reducing safety.

Dorfman wrote a report last year detailing key safety features that the Barakah reactor lacked, such as "core capture" to actually stop the reactor core from breaking the containment building in the event of a crisis.

The reactor also lost the so-called Generation III Defense-In-Depth reinforcements to the detention building to protect against radiological releases resulting from missile attacks or fighter jets.

Both of these engineering features are standard in new reactors built in Europe, Dorfman said.

There are at least 13 airstrikes on nuclear facilities in the Middle East - more than any other region on Earth.

Critical infrastructure vulnerability in the Arabian Peninsula worsened last year after Saudi Arabia's oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khura were attacked by 18 unmanned aircraft and seven cruise missiles - attacks which temporarily destroyed more than half of the kingdom's oil production.

On Saturday 1 August 2020, Dorfman reiterated his concern that there is no regional protocol for determining liability in the event of an accident or incident in Barakah that causes radioactive contamination to spread from the UAE to neighboring countries.

"Considering Barakah has begun, because all nuclear safety and security issues have been well trained, it may be very important that the Gulf states collectively develop the Nuclear Accident Responsibility Convention, so that if something goes wrong, the affected countries may have some options such as compensation, "Dorfman told Al Jazeera.

The UAE has substantial oil and gas reserves, but has made major investments in developing alternative energy sources, including nuclear and solar.

Experts have questioned why the UAE - which is bathed in sunlight and wind - prefers nuclear energy that is far more expensive and riskier than other renewable energy sources such as solar panels.

When the UAE first announced Barakah in 2009, nuclear power was cheaper than solar and wind. But in 2012 - when Emirates began building a foundation to build a reactor - the cost of solar power and wind dropped dramatically.

Between 2009 and 2019, the average photovoltaic cost of utility scales fell 89 percent and winds fell 43 percent, while nuclear jumped 26 percent, according to an analysis by financial advisor and asset manager Lazard.

There is also concern about Barakah's potential to trigger nuclear proliferation in the Middle East - a region that is filled with well-documented geopolitical fault lines and a history of nuclear secrecy.

The UAE has sought to distance itself from bad behavior in the region by agreeing not to enrich its own uranium or re-processed fuel.

He has also signed the United Nations Nuclear Regulatory Supplementary Protocol, significantly enhanced inspection capabilities, and obtained an Agreement 123 with the United States that allows bilateral civil nuclear cooperation.

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