United Arab Emirates has on Saturday, 1st August 2020, announced the startup of its Barakah nuclear power plant.
The announcement which is a first for the Arab world, coincided with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, also comes hot on the heels of the UAE’s launch of the Arab world’s first probe to Mars.
The announcement was made in a tweet by Hamad Alkaabi, the country’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
He tweeted that “UAE first nuclear reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has achieved first criticality and successfully started up,”. “This is a historic milestone for the nation with a vision set to deliver a new form of clean energy for the nation”.
The UAE started loading fuel rods into the reactor at Barakah in February, after regulators gave the green light for the first of the plant’s four reactors, opening the way for commercial operations.
The plant on the Gulf coast west of Abu Dhabi had been due to go online in late 2017 but faced a number of delays that officials attributed to safety and regulatory requirements.
The Nawah Energy Company said at the time that Unit 1 would begin commercial operations after a “series of tests” leading to the start-up process.
During the process, the unit would be synchronized with the power grid and the first electricity produced.
The UAE has substantial oil and gas reserves, but with a power-hungry population of 10 million, it has made huge investments in developing clean alternatives, including solar energy.
Barakah, which means “blessing” in Arabic, is a regional first — Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has said it plans to build up to 16 nuclear reactors.
Barakah was built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation at a cost of some $24.4 billion.
The UAE has repeatedly reiterated that its nuclear ambitions are for “peaceful purposes” and moved to dispel any concerns over safety.