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UAE’s first nuclear reactor to connect with grid next year

$3b worth contracts awarded to 1,400 companies for Barakah nuclear power project

Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News
Suhail Mohammad Al Mazroui (left) and Hamad Al Kaabi addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Energy in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s first nuclear reactor will be operational and linked with the electricity grid next year, a senior official said here on Monday. This will further accelerate the UAE’s efforts to generate 50 per cent of total energy from clean energy sources by 2050, said Suhail Mohammad Al Mazroui, Minister of Energy. The first reactor is 96 per cent complete, he said at a press conference.

An international conference to be hosted by the UAE next month will be a testimony to the UAE’s reputation for its peaceful nuclear programme, he said while announcing the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in 21st Century in Abu Dhabi. The conference will be held from October 30 to November 1 in cooperation with the Nuclear Agency of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. “The UAE will be the first Arab country to host this conference,” Al Mazroui said.

The Abu Dhabi conference follows the previous ones held in Paris in 2005, Beijing in 2009 and Saint Petersburg in 2013. The conference will discuss the role of nuclear power in meeting future energy demand and contributing to sustainable development and mitigating climate change.

The minister said the UAE’s nuclear power project in Barakah in Al Dhafra region would meet around 25 per cent of the total energy needs of the UAE by 2021.

The $20-billion (Dh73.4 billion) project has already awarded $3 billion (Dh11 billion) worth contracts to 1,400 companies, Al Mazroui said.

The first of the four rectors will be operational in 2018, he said. Each reactor will generate 1400MW (megawatt) energy with a total capacity of 5,600MW, he said.

Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said nuclear power provides about 11 per cent of the world’s electricity. Thirty nations already operate nuclear power plants and an additional 30 countries are considering or preparing to introduce nuclear power, he said.

Christer Viktorsson, director general of Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), told Gulf News the construction of the UAE’s four nuclear reactors were completed by 82 per cent. Asked about the scheduled opening of the first reactor next year, he said the authority’s focus now is to ensure the safety of the reactor. Once the construction is complete, the reactor will be operational after all the safety requirements are met, Viktorsson said.

The officials said the additional safety measures for the reactors at Barakkah have been added following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. The local population in Al Dhafra region has been taken into confidence and authorities have raised awareness about the safety measures, they added.