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UAE announces the start of its first nuclear power plant.

Image Credit: AFP

On Saturday, United Arab Emirates announced the startup of its first nuclear power plant, a first for the UAE and the Arab World.

Hama Alkaabi, UAE’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, tweeted, ‘UAE first nuclear reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has achieved first criticality and successful startup.’

‘This is a historic milestone for the nation with a vision set to deliver a new form of clean energy for the nation.’

The Barakah nuclear power plant has four nuclear reactors. The UAE started loading the fuel rods into the reactor on February. This happened only after the regulators gave them the go ahead to continue with the nuclear power plant operations. The nuclear power plant located in the west of the UAE’s capital, was supposed to come online in late 2017, but suffered from delays due to safety and regulatory requirements.

The nuclear power plant was built in association with Korea Electric Power Corporation in a deal that costed around $20 billion.

When fully operational the nuclear power plant would be able to produce around 5,600 megawatts of electricity. This is around 25% of the country’s requirement. Only 1 reactor is operational for now. UAE has substantial energy reserves, but the country wants 50% of its energy to be obtained from clean sources by 2050. It is projected that by 2021, 27% of the electricity needs will be met by nuclear and renewable energy.

The UAE also announced that is not interested in an uranium enrichment program or nuclear reprocessing technologies. UAE made it clear that its nuclear energy is for ‘peaceful purposes’ and has invited more than 40 international reviews and inspections.

In spite of this, a British expert told the British Telegraph last year that the UAE’s nuclear program may lead to nuclear arms race in the Middle East if left unchecked. Dr. Paul Dorfman, forms part of the Nuclear Consulting Group, and said that UAE might eventually be interested in developing a nuclear weapon. He also warned that the nuclear power plant might be targeted by terrorists.

Regional conflict could also see a potential attack from enemies against the plant, and it is not clear if UAE is sufficiently equipped to neutralize such attacks. UAE is not on good terms with Iran. To make matters worse, Iran are sanctioned for trying to operate a nuclear power plant.

The scientist also said that apart from terrorist threats and enriching uranium for nuclear weapons, natural hazards can also lead to disaster.

The Barakah nuclear power plant is located in an area that suffers from extreme temperatures, and since it is close to the coast, rising sea levels and storms could spell disaster for the nuclear plant.

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