The country's first nuclear power plant in Barakah, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was approved for operation 11 years after the signing of an export contract.
According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Feb. 17, the UAE's nuclear regulatory agency FANR will start loading fuel at the end of this month after obtaining permission for the Barakah nuclear power plant Unit 1. If there are no problems with the test drive, the commercial operation will be possible as early as the second half of this year.
“This is a historic moment when the UAE will start commercial operations in the near future,” said Hamad al Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), in a press conference held in Abu Dhabi.
The Barakah nuclear power plant is a project to build four next-generation Korean nuclear power plants "APR-1400" in Barakah, 270 kilometers west of Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital. It is meaningful that it is the first UAE nuclear power plant and the first in the Middle East.
The KEPCO-led consortium won the construction project in December 2009 and began construction in July 2012. The contract was worth 18.6 billion U.S. dollars. It competed with advanced countries such as France and Japan at the time of the bidding but succeeded in winning the bid due to KEPCO's ability to construct nuclear power plants and technology to operate them safely.
KEPCO had originally planned to get operational permits for Barakah Unit 1 and 2, but the approval was made this time after the FANR refused to grant permission, citing lack of training by drivers.
Regarding the recent controversy over the safety of Korean nuclear power plants by some foreign media outlets, the ministry said, "The Barakah nuclear power plants have passed safety evaluations and verification by international organizations such as the IAEA and the World Association of Nuclear Power Operators (WANO). Since 2009, Korea's Barakah nuclear power plant project has been the only one among OECD member countries that have pushed for export of nuclear power plants and construction completion in a timely manner. The government will continue to actively support the export of nuclear power plants.”
The Ulsan Shingori Unit 3 reactor, a reference nuclear power plant of Barakah No. 1, started test-driving in November 2015 after loading fuel and began commercial operation in December 2016.
On the other hand, President Moon Jae-in visited UAE in March 2018 and said, "The UAE is speeding up to diversify sources of energy and industrial structure and look into the non-petroleum era. The Barakah Nuclear Power Plant will contribute greatly to developing future growth engines by providing the UAE's basic infrastructure power reliably.”
“When the first Barakah nuclear plant is completed and operational, it will be the first of the world's nuclear power plants to achieve commercial operation of a third-generation nuclear power plant and the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the desert,” he said.