The UAE has commissioned Unit 1 of the 5.6GW Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi, marking the start of the first-ever nuclear power plant in the Arab world.

The $24.4bn nuclear power project is being constructed in the Al Dhafrah Region with Nawah Energy, a joint venture between Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Each of the four APR1400 pressurized water reactors that make up the Barakah nuclear power project is designed to have a capacity of 1.4GW. After being fully commissioned, the nuclear power project is expected to cover almost 25% of the UAE’s power needs for at least the next 60 years.

The nuclear power plant is also expected to offset up to 21 million tons of carbon emissions annually.

ENEC CEO Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi said: “Today is a truly historic moment for the UAE. It is the culmination of more than a decade of vision, strategic planning and robust program management. Despite the recent global challenges, our team has demonstrated outstanding resilience and commitment to the safe delivery of Unit 1.”

ENEC said that the nuclear power plant was granted operating license from UAE’s independent nuclear regulator Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) in February 2020. This was followed by the completion of fuel assembly loading in March, said the company, which said that Nawah Energy and KEPCO have been safely progressing the first unit through a comprehensive testing programme before its start-up.

Nawah Energy CEO Ali Al Hammadi said: “The start-up of Unit 1 is a significant milestone for Nawah Energy Company as we fulfill our mandate to operate and maintain the plant in accordance with the highest international standards of safety and quality. The dedication of our people as well as our close collaboration with our Korean partners and cooperation with numerous international expert organizations has enabled this accomplishment.

“This reflects our commitment to upholding the highest safety, quality and operational transparency standards throughout the entire commissioning and startup process by leveraging the expertise of the global nuclear industry.”

Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant Unit 2 gears up for being commissioned

In mid-July, ENEC announced the completion of the construction of the second nuclear energy reactor of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant. Work is in progress at the other two nuclear reactors of the project with construction on the verge of being completed.