Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s $20 billion (Dh73.5 billion) civil nuclear programme is on schedule with the country’s first nuclear reactor slated to start operations in 2017. As matters stand, construction of the UAE’s first nuclear energy reactor continues to progress, with the installation of the Containment Liner Plate (CLP) in the reactor containment building for Barakah Unit 1. The CLP is one of the many defence-in-depth barriers that ensure the safety of nuclear energy plants.

The UAE is currently working on plans to have four nuclear power reactors operational in Barakah by 2020, to generate 5.6 GWe of electricity. The first plant has been under construction since July 2012. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (Enec) has applied to the country’s nuclear regulator for a licence to build the oil-exporting country’s third and fourth nuclear reactors.

In December 2009, the UAE awarded a group led by Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco) a contract to build four 1,400 megawatt nuclear reactors to meet surging demand for electricity. The UAE’s Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR) granted Enec a licence for the construction of the first two reactors last July. The nuclear energy generated at the plants would help meet significant portion of the UAE’s energy needs, saving up to 12 million tonnes in carbon emissions every year.

The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano recently reviewed the UAE’s nuclear power programme during a visit to the country. Noting the progress achieved in the construction of the Barakah nuclear facility, Amano stressed the importance of the UAE project, as the first country in 27 years to start construction of its first nuclear power plant.

He stated at the time that the IAEA has supported the UAE programme since it was launched in 2008, and that the agency would continue to work closely in cooperation with the UAE. He said the UAE’s safe and consistent progress in the introduction of nuclear power can serve as a model for other countries considering a nuclear power programme.