UAE Starts Operation of Arab World’s First Nuclear Power Reactor

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The United Arab Emirates switched on the Arab world’s first commercial nuclear power plant after loading fuel and conducting comprehensive tests, the prime minister said.

With the start-up of the Barakah reactor, the UAE — a seven-member federation that includes commercial hub Dubai and oil-rich Abu Dhabi, where the reactor is located — joins a club of 30 countries that can generate nuclear energy. The country’s watchdog had given the go-ahead to run the plant in February.

“Teams succeeded in loading nuclear fuel, carrying out comprehensive tests and successfully completing the operation,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai, said in a tweet. “The goal is to operate four nuclear power plants that will provide a quarter of the country’s need for electricity in a safe, reliable and emission-free way.”

Built and run by a joint venture with Korea Electric Power Corp., the Barakah plant can now move toward full commercial operation over the next several months. Other Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt are also moving toward adopting nuclear power despite questions about cost and safety.

The UAE is aiming to have the four civilian reactors in operation by 2023. The plants, located along a sparsely populated strip of desert on the Persian Gulf coast, are estimated to cost a total $25 billion. The government expects them to produce as much as 5.6 gigawatts of energy once they’re fully commissioned, or about a fifth of the country’s current installed generating capacity.

— With assistance by Hilton Shone

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