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Saturday Aug 01 2020
By
AFP

UAE starts up 'Barakah', Arab world's first nuclear power plant

By
AFP
"UAE first nuclear reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has achieved first criticality and successfully started up," tweeted Hamad Alkaabi, the country´s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Photo: DG IAEA Twitter account

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced Saturday it was starting up 'Barakah', the first nuclear power plant of the Arab world, on the heels of the emirates launching its first ever probe to Mars. 

The announcement was made by the oil-rich country on Eid ul Adha. "UAE first nuclear reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has achieved first criticality and successfully started up," tweeted Hamad Alkaabi, the country´s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"This is a historic milestone for the nation with a vision set to deliver a new form of clean energy for the nation," he tweeted in English, along with a photograph of technicians raising their arms in celebration.

The UAE premier and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, tweeted that work at Barakah had "succeeded in loading nuclear fuel packages, carrying out comprehensive tests and successfully completing the operation".

"Congratulations on realising this historic achievement in the energy sector & marking this milestone in the roadmap for sustainable development," Sheikh Mohammed said.

The UAE started loading fuel rods into the reactor at Barakah in February, after regulators gave the green light for the first of the plant´s four reactors, opening the way for commercial operations.

The plant on the Gulf coast west of Abu Dhabi had been due to go online in late 2017 but faced a number of delays that officials attributed to safety and regulatory requirements.

The Nawah Energy Company said at the time that Unit 1 would begin commercial operations after a "series of tests" leading to the start-up process.

During the process, the unit would be synchronised with the power grid and the first electricity produced.

The UAE has substantial oil and gas reserves, but with a power-hungry population of 10 million it has made huge investments in developing clean alternatives, including solar energy.

The plant is a regional first -- Saudi Arabia, the world´s top oil exporter, has said it plans to build up to 16 nuclear reactors, but the project has yet to materialise.

Barakah was built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation at a cost of some $24.4 billion.

When fully operational, its four reactors have the capacity to generate 5,600 megawatts of electricity, around 25 percent of the nation´s needs. The remaining three reactors are almost ready for operation.

As well as generating competitively priced electricity, the UAE also hopes the nuclear plant will elevate its status as a key regional player, building on its success as a hub for tourism, banking and services.