x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Regulator gives green light for work on UAE's first nuclear site

Braka approved as the site of the nation's first nuclear reactor, to be built by Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation.

ABU DHABI // The nuclear regulatory authority has given its approval for preparatory work to begin at the proposed site of the UAE's first atomic power station. Further approvals from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation will be needed before the site at Braka, a stretch of beach west of Ruwais, is deemed acceptable. But the two licences issued to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) pave the way for the company to start building basic infrastructure such as roads, and components important to the safety of the power plants, such as steam generators and coolant pumps.

Approval from the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi is also needed before infrastructure work can start. ENEC has submitted an environmental impact assessment for the construction and operation of the plants and has promised to preserve any heritage sites found during construction. Dr William Travers, the authority's director general, said that while the two licences had been granted it did not mean it had approved the 13-square-kilometre site 300km west of the capital. The nuclear energy corporation will have to apply "later this year" to construct the four power plants, he said.

ENEC expects to begin building the first plant on the site by late 2012 and have it in operation by 2017. The Government expects that within a decade the four plants will deliver almost a quarter of Abu Dhabi's power and be staffed by more than 2,000 engineers and other workers. A South Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation has been chosen to build the first four plants at a cost of US$20 billion (Dh73bn).

Last year the Goverment signed pacts with the United States, South Korea and France as it resolved to become the first Arab nation to harness the power of the atom. To reassure the rest of the world of its peaceful aims, it pledged to forgo the right to make its own fuel, avoiding any risk of spreading nuclear weapons technology. ENEC evaluated 10 sites, but ultimately settled on Braka for the first four reactors because of its remote coastal location, stable geology and proximity to the electricity grid.

Previously, it said the site was its "preferred" location, though it had a shortlist of acceptable sites ready in case its first choice was rejected by regulators. @Email:mchung@thenational.ae