United Arab Emirates Gets Permission to Operate Arab World’s First Nuclear Power Plant

Barakah Nuclear Power Plant

The independent nuclear regulator for the United Arab Emirates on Monday issued the operating license for Unit 1 of the country’s Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, giving the go-ahead on operations for the first nuclear power plant in the Arab world.

The project, which national officials describe as a strategic and economic imperative for the UAE, is more than a decade in the making and involved collaboration with external bodies including the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the government of South Korea.

“Today’s announcement is another milestone for the UAE, culminating efforts of 12 years towards the development of the UAE Nuclear Energy Programme to which the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) played a significant role to turn this vision into a reality,” Hamad al Kaabi, the UAE’s permanent representative to the IAEA, told media at a briefing in Abu Dhabi.

“The nuclear energy plan includes the laws and regulations and conforms to standards of the IAEA and international best practices,” said al Kaabi, who also serves as FANR’s deputy chairman.

Once operation of the plant begins — the exact date of which has not been announced, but is expected in the coming weeks — the UAE will become the newest member of an exclusive club of currently just 30 countries running nuclear power operations. It’s also the first new country to launch a nuclear power plant in three decades, the last being China in 1990.

FANR, the country’s regulator, granted the license after years of extensive reviews and inspections, its officials said. This included more than 185 inspections, reviewing 14,000 pages of the plant’s operating license application, and requesting more than 2,000 additional pieces of information concerning reactor design, safety, geography and other areas to ensure the plant’s compliance with regulatory requirements.

The operating license is expected to last 60 years, and allows the UAE’s Nawah Energy Company, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Company’s (ENEC) subsidiary operating the plant, to start loading fuel and eventually move into partial and full operation of the first unit, al Kaabi told CNBC in an interview. Partial operation could take a few weeks while full operation may take a few months, he said.

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SOURCE: CNBC, Natasha Turak