UAE’s nuclear regulator has given green signal to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) to build two nuclear power reactors in Abu Dhabi, the first one in the strategically sensitive Barakah site located on the Gulf.
The licence permits ENEC to construct two reactors using the Korean-design of advanced pressurised water reactors, each capable of producing 1,400 megawatt of electricity. However, it has not given permission to the ENEC to operate the reactors, as it must apply for a separate operating licence. The first one will become operational by 2017 and the others by 2020.
After the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, countries across the world have reconsidered their atomic ambitions. However, the UAE’s nuclear regulator confirmed this project would avoid mistakes made in Japan.
The UAE is investing billions of dollars in developing alternative energy sources in order to diversify from hydrocarbons.
UAE, the world’s third-largest oil exporter, is facing soaring demand for electricity as its economy expands, hopes that nuclear energy would meet 25% of its power requirements. Other Arab nations, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have also shown interest in nuclear energy in recent years.
A consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) has been awarded the contract to build four nuclear reactors that will produce 5,600 MW of energy. ENEC has informed the regulator that it has started the construction at the site. UAE has so far not decided either to enrich uranium itself or to re-process spent fuel. ENEC opened bids for the uranium supply to the reactors in July last year. It is yet to announce the winners of the contract.