Construction green light for UAE’s first nuclear power plants

The nuclear regulator of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR), has granted a licence to Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) for the construction of its first two nuclear reactors, reports Reuters.

In December 2009, Abu Dhabi awarded a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) a contract to build four nuclear reactors to meet its surging demand for electricity.

The South Korean-led consortium will build and operate the 1400 MW reactors; with the first expected to enter commercial operation in 2017 and the others by 2020.

Now that ENEC has received the construction licence it is expected to start pouring concrete for the first two reactors at the Braka site, located west of Abu Dhabi, within a matter of days, says Reuters.

This licence relates only to the first two reactors, but according to William Travers, director general of the FANR, ENEC has informally told the regulator to expect an application the other two before the end of this year.

Although last year’s Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan prompted several countries to rethink their nuclear plans and aspirations, it remains an attractive option for many countries in the Middle East, where power demand is set to skyrocket over the next decade.

With this approval from FANR, the UAE becomes the second country in the region to develop a national nuclear programme after Iran, with its Bushehr plant.

According to Russia’s Atomstroyexport, the plant’s main contractor, Bushehr is scheduled to run at full capacity next month.

Saudi Arabia is also expected to finalise its nuclear plans this year, with Qatar, Jordan, Algeria and Kuwait also considering going down the nuclear path.

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