The United Arab Emirates (UAE) issued an operating licence for the first reactor at the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant, paving the way for it to start production later this year.
The Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi, which is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), was originally due to open in 2017 but the start-up of its first reactor has been delayed several times.
A 60-year operating licence will be granted to the plant’s operator, Nawah Energy Company, Hamad al-Kaabi, deputy chairman of Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) told a news conference on Monday.
Nawah can now begin the commissioning phase by loading fuel into the reactor in preparation for operation, a process that will take a number of weeks and will be accompanied by testing of the safety systems, al-Kaabi said.
When completed, Barakah will have four reactors with a total capacity of 5,600 megawatts.
Al-Kaabi said construction of the plant’s second reactor was 95 percent complete and that FANR had started looking into an operating license for it.
Christer Viktorsson, director-general of FANR, said Nawah can start initial power production by May or June of this year. Reaching the first reactor’s full production capacity would take eight to 12 months if all tests went well, he added.
“Today marks a new chapter in our journey for the development of peaceful nuclear energy with the issuing of the operating license for the first [unit of] Barakah plant,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed wrote on his official Twitter account.
Last month, state news agency WAM reported an operational readiness assessment performed by the Atlanta centre of the World Association of Nuclear Operators concluded that the first of the four planned reactors was fit for its start-up phase.
The UAE is the only country that has purchased a KEPCO reactor.
Expressing concern, Qatar’s foreign affairs ministry reportedly sent a letter in March to the International Atomic Energy Agency saying a radioactive plume from an accidental discharge could reach its capital, Doha and a radiation leak could harm the Gulf’s water supply.
The UAE insists its nuclear power programme is transparent, safe and only intended for civilian use.
Qatar is currently under a continuing diplomatic, trade and transport blockade by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt over allegations that Doha supports “terrorism” and is too close to Iran. Qatar has rejected such claims.