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UAE postpones start-up of first nuclear reactor

The UAE hopes to have the four reactors operational by 2020 [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 May, 2018

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A readiness review has delayed the UAE's plans to become the first Arab nation to produce atomic power.
The United Arab Emirates has postponed plans to start up its first nuclear reactor until at least the end of 2019.

Nawah Energy Company, the operator of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, said it "has completed a comprehensive operational readiness review" for the updated start-up schedule.

"The results of Nawah's review forecast that the loading of nuclear fuel assemblies required to commence nuclear operations at Barakah Unit 1 will occur between the end of 2019 and early 2020," it said in a statement.

The Abu Dhabi power plant is the world's largest nuclear project under construction, and will be the first in the Arab world. The UAE had announced previously that the first reactor would begin operations in 2017, before later delaying the start date.

Abu Dhabi's announcement came after a visit from South Korean President Moon Jae-in, where he toured the $20-billion Barakah debut plant with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, state-run WAM news agency reported.

The plant west of Abu Dhabi is being constructed by a consortium led by KEPCO, the Korea Electric Power Corporation.

The achievement was described by Sheikh Mohammed as "historic" for the UAE's energy source. The country, while rich in oil and gas, is looking to increase alternate sources of power.

The UAE completed its first of four nuclear reactors in March, and was waiting for the go-ahead from the regulatory authority overseeing the nuclear programme before starting operations.

Nuclear and renewable energy are expected to contribute to 27 percent of the country's electricity needs by 2021.

According to the UAE energy ministry, the four reactors will produce 5,600 megawatts of electricity when fully operational.

UAE says it aims to continue diversifying toward its goal of 50 percent clean energy by 2050.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia - the world's largest crude oil exporter - is hoping to acquire nuclear energy, and has accelerated plans this month in its bid to building two nuclear reactors.

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