Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in Abu Dhabi
Units 1 and 2 of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in Abu Dhabi are now operational, helping the nation advance closer to achieving its Net Zero target by 2050 Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A group of long-term personnel at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has expressed their pride and joy at being associated with the Arab World’s first nuclear power plant.

Speaking on the occasion of 10 years since the start of construction of Unit 1 at the plant, they referred to Barakah Nuclear Power Plant as a nation-defining major strategic project that has solidified the UAE’s global position as a forward-thinking nation across many industries and sectors.

The plant is the flagship project of UAE’s Peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme. A sustainable powerhouse for the UAE, the plant has been recognised for its project management excellence, setting a benchmark for the world in how to rapidly transition to Net Zero, while bolstering the nation’s energy security.

Only three years separated the issuance of the decree in 2009 that established ENEC by the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the start of concrete pouring at the site of the plant in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi. This marked the official beginning of the construction work at Unit 1 of the plant.

Site photoof Barakah Plant  before statrt of construction-1659187770404
File photo of the project site before construction began in 2012 Image Credit: Supplied

A new era in clean energy

On July 18, 2012, the vacant site of the plant was marked out with simple flags. That was the beginning of a project that later turned out to be a symbol of national pride and vision. It marked the start of the development of a new era in clean energy in the UAE and with each construction milestone that followed, the realisation of the UAE’s clean energy ambitions grew.

“Our dedicated team completed the main concrete pouring at Unit 1 during Ramadan. Yet, the fasting didn’t have any impact on our work. We were just focused on getting the work done safely and in keeping with the highest standards,” said Ali Al Mansoori, who is currently head of major assets at ENEC’s Maintenance and Operations subsidiary — Nawah Energy Company.

‘Landmark of a whole new kind’

“I am proud to have witnessed all the stages of the development of the Barakah Plant, from the beginning of construction to commercial operations of Unit 1 and Unit 2. I am honoured to have been part of this megaproject from the beginning, which is now producing abundant clean electricity and helping our nation advance closer to achieving its Net Zero target by 2050. It is an unbelievable feeling of pride to have a role in the development of a project of this scale, which is historic by all means. The [Al Dhafra] region where the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is located was once a landmark for the first Bedouins to find routes and paths in the open desert. Today, Barakah has become a landmark of a whole new kind. It is home to one of the world’s largest nuclear plants and a global model and benchmark for countries seeking to launch new peaceful nuclear energy programmes that provide real solutions for climate change through rapid decarbonisation,” he added.

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‘An unprecedented project’

Ahmad Al Jaziri, long-term strategic manager for the project, was also among hundreds of talented Emiratis who played a key role in the beginning of construction work at Unit 1 of the Barakah plant more than a decade ago.

“We were very proud to be venturing down a completely new path for the country, representing the development of an unprecedented project in the Arab world. We had great confidence from day one because we had the guidance and support of our wise leadership, in addition to international organisations and experienced nations globally. We knew we had what it takes to excel,” Al Jaziri said.

“With every milestone that was achieved at Unit 1 of Barakah, whether in terms of construction or major tests, we remained committed to working in line with national regulations and the highest international standards of quality and safety. We remained focused on the goal of achieving the historic moment of beginning commercial operations at Unit 1 — marking the start of clean, carbon emissions-free electricity generation in the country. We can look back today and proudly say that we completed construction and started operating the first nuclear energy plant in our country and the Arab world — a true testament to the capabilities of our people,” he added.

‘Communication, collaboration and exchange of knowledge’

Sultan Al Qahtani, the Maintenance Support Programmes team leader, highlighted that among the most important features of the Unit 1 journey was the harmony between the teams from more than 50 nationalities. Every day, Emirati talents work side by side with international nuclear experts at the Barakah plant.

“Since the beginning of the development of the Barakah plant, we have worked with specialists from across the world. We have completed advanced training programmes in the UAE and abroad. What was impressive was the communication, collaboration and exchange of knowledge and experience between the teams. During all the phases of development of Unit 1 — from construction to operations — everyone worked with a great sense of responsibility. We had one goal: To develop and implement a pioneering project that is the first of its kind in the country and the region,” Al Qahtani said.

Strategic vision of UAE’s wise leadership

“There is no feeling like being part of writing a new chapter in our nation’s history. Our work has enabled the plant to provide clean electricity round the clock, preventing millions of tonnes of carbon emissions and driving us on the road to achieving Net Zero by 2050. The most exciting part about all of this is that Barakah is only the beginning,” he said.

The success of the plant demonstrates the strategic vision of the UAE’s wise leadership, which has built a geopolitical asset that guarantees energy security for the next 60 years, while driving sustainable development in a world that is witnessing constant change.

Clean-energy certification

ENEC is now poised for the next ten years and beyond as the electricity generated from this plant allows the UAE to export gas instead of using it to generate power, as well as sustainably power companies through clean-energy certification so that they may access green financing. More broadly, ENEC is now poised to expand into other clean-energy areas such as hydrogen and Small Modular Reactors, as well as support the development of other sectors, including agriculture, space exploration and medicine.