On February 17th, the UAE issued the operating license for the Arab World’s first ever nuclear power plant.
The license granted to the plant’s operator Nawah Energy Company will be for 60 years, Hamad al-Kaabi, deputy chairman of Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) said.
The multi-billion-dollar Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi, which is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), was originally due to open in 2017. The start-up of the first reactor was delayed several times.
The UAE, a key OPEC oil producer, wants to diversify its energy mix, adding nuclear power to meet rising demand for electricity and to help free up more crude oil for export.
The country wants 6% of its total energy needs to be covered by nuclear power by 2050.
When completed Barakah will have four reactors with a total capacity of 5,600 megawatts (MW), and all with the same capacity. The UAE has not disclosed the total final investment in the project.
“Today marks a new chapter in our journey for the development of peaceful nuclear energy with the issuing of the operating license for the first (unit of) Barakah plant,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed wrote on his official twitter account.
The Barakah plant is situated on the Emirates coast, separated from Iran by the troubled Gulf waters. It is just 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the border of Saudi Arabia, and is closer to the Qatari capital Doha than it is to Abu Dhabi.
Amid a tense confrontation between Iran and the United States over Tehran’s nuclear programme, the UAE has said it will not be developing a uranium enrichment programme or nuclear reprocessing technologies.
Saudi Arabia, as of May 2019 said it was nearly finished with its nuclear reactor, even before the US Congress had greenlit allowing the transfer of nuclear technology to Riyadh.
The U.S. and others such as South Korea and China are pushing ahead with plans to help Saudi Arabia’s civilian nuclear program.
“The big, big question in the background,” says Sharon Squassoni, a nuclear expert and professor at George Washington University, “is do we have enough controls in place that we can trust [Saudi Arabia]? Since they’ve been pretty clear about their intentions should things go bad with Iran.”
Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia simply promised that they would use nuclear power for peaceful purposes and everything was in order.
Iran, had to sign the Nuclear Deal and is still under scrutiny for enriching uranium, despite continuous claims that it only wishes to create peaceful nuclear energy and not weaponize it.
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