x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 December 2017

UAE's first nuclear power plant gets green light

The nuclear regulator has given the green light for the construction of the UAE's first nuclear plant. Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation is set to pour the first concrete tomorrow.

The nuclear regulator has given the green light for the construction of the UAE’s first nuclear plant.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) is set to pour the first concrete tomorrow at the coastal site of Baraka, where four nuclear reactors supplied by a South Korean consortium are scheduled to come online between 2017 and 2020.

“We will have the first concrete pouring,” said Jun-Yeon Byun the chief nuclear officer of Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), the lead company in the US$20 billion contract. “I’m very happy.”

Sources at the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) confirmed that the board of management approved the construction license for the first two reactors at a two-hour meeting today. FANR declined to comment. It has called a press conference for tomorrow morning.

The license marks a major step not just for the UAE - set to be the first Arab nation to produce nuclear power - but also in the global nuclear industry, which ground to a halt after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The last nation to embark on a new nuclear programme was China with the construction of its first reactor kicking off in 1985, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.

Throughout its 18-month review, Fanr has worked in close cooperation with the IAEA as well as Enec, which responded to more than 1,600 questions from the regulator.

The license application ran to 9,000 pages and required a review team of more than 60 people from Fanr and three international consulting firms.

The review also included an additional submission from Enec detailing changes in light of the March 2011 triple meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Fanr plans to have an ongoing inspection programme and a permanent office at Baraka, which is situated 300km west of the capital. Some 5,000 workers from more than 10 nations already live at the site, where signs are posted in English, Arabic and Korean. A massive concrete batch plant, capable of making 600 cubic yards of concrete an hour, has been used for the construction of two villages housing the workers and will now be put to use to make the foundations of the reactors.

ayee@thenational.ae