Opinion and Editorial

UAE role model in peaceful use of nuclear energy

Filed on April 6, 2021
Wam file

The UAE has become the first Arab country to join the league of nations running nuclear power operations.

The UAE has started commercial use of nuclear energy which means millions of households in the country could be lit up by power generated from its nuclear reactors. It is a milestone that will go down in history for several reasons.

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The UAE has become the first Arab country to join the league of nations running nuclear power operations. It is a successful culmination of its nuclear power programme first announced in 2008. As a country that is growing exponentially, the UAE had realised early on that its future energy needs can be met by investing in a commercially viable and environment-friendly nuclear programme. With an initial funding of $100 million, Emirates Nuclear Energy Cooperation (ENEC) was set up as a public entity tasked with setting up of a nuclear power plant. Ruwais located 250km west of Abu Dhabi city was earmarked as the site to build the Barakah power plant. A $20 billion bid from a South Korean consortium was accepted to build four commercial nuclear power reactors, with a total 5.6000MW capacity at Barakah. A construction environmental permit from the Environmental Agency-Abu Dhabi followed them and groundbreaking took place in March 2011.

FANR, the UAE’s nuclear watchdog, issued a 60-year-long operating licence for Unit 1 reactor and it was connected to the national grid in August 2020, marking a milestone in the country’s nuclear journey. The Arab world’s first nuclear facility was up and running. And it has to be noted that the nation achieved it despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Through remote inspections and other safety measures in place on the site, the team of engineers and experts kept at their work to meet deadlines and targets. The UAE, Opec’s third largest oil producer, generating electricity through nuclear power is a monumental achievement in the country’s clean energy pursuits.

The commercial operation of nuclear reactors will be a huge push towards renewable energy targets and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and natural gas for power and water generation. The country plans to generate half of its power from clean and renewable energy sources by 2050. Once fully operational, the Barakah Power plant will save 21 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year. That’s roughly equivalent to the carbon emissions of 3.2 million cars annually. While nuclear proliferation by neigbouring Iran is threatening the stability of the region, the UAE, in contrast, has pursued its peaceful nuclear programame in complete transparency and in cooperation with international bodies like the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency . The UAE’s nuclear programme is an example for others on how a bold and determined nation can steer its future forward while leaving a legacy of peace and prosperity.

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