Nations around the world will require a significant increase in clean, safe sources of electrical power over the next several generations to meet the needs of their citizens and to protect the environment.
According to an IAEA estimation
made at the beginning of 2013, 437 nuclear reactors are in operation worldwide and 66 new reactors are under construction. Meanwhile, the Agency predicts (based on information and feedback from Member States) that the number of operating reactors could increase by 80 or 90 in the next twenty years.
The United Arab Emirates has joined the nuclear newcomers, with the beginning of construction of the first nuclear power reactor in July 2012. The UAE’s first reactor is scheduled to begin supplying electricity in 2017, with three other reactors intended to be built at the same site.
Why Nuclear Power?
The country’s nuclear programme is supported by the notion that by 2020, the UAE’s energy demand will rise to more than 40,000 MWs – a rate of approximately 9% growth per year.
Based upon these projections, the UAE evaluated several viable options for meeting its future energy demands and found most conventional power sources insufficient to fully meet power output, cost-efficiency, or environmental requirements:
Assessed Energy Sources
Reviewed against several options, the UAE concluded that nuclear power generation would be the most reliable, efficient, safe, commercially competitive and environmentally friendly means of producing electricity.
Recognizing the potential role of nuclear energy as an indispensable part of the UAE’s future energy strategy, the UAE Government developed and publicly issued an in-depth policy paper titled, 'Policy of the United Arab Emirates on the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy
'. This policy paper, the Nuclear Policy
, was adopted by the UAE Cabinet of Ministers and published in April 2008. The Nuclear Policy outlines the role of nuclear energy in the UAE’s energy programme and the UAE’s commitment to operational transparency and the highest standards of non-proliferation, safety and security.
The non-proliferation commitment included the UAE decision to forgo uranium enrichment and domestic reprocessing of spent fuel. The Nuclear Policy also discusses the UAE’s intent to develop its peaceful domestic nuclear power capability in partnership with governments and firms of friendly and responsible nations, as well as the assistance of appropriate expert organizations, such as the IAEA.
UAE progressed very well in development of the required nuclear infrastructure
have signed all major international agreements. The UAE issued a nuclear law in 2009 and established an independent nuclear safety regulator. In 2009, the UAE’s operator Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) contracted with a Korean consortium led by Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) for the building and operation of four APR 1400 nuclear reactors in the UAE. In July 2012, construction of the first reactor commenced.
In 2011, a national opinion poll has found strong support for the UAE’s nuclear energy programme, with 85% of the respondents believing in the importance of peaceful nuclear energy for the nation as a result of the study of UAE residents (UAE Public Opinion Poll
) that was carried out by independent global market research company TNS.
On 17 July 2012, the nuclear regulator, FANR approved the issuance of Construction Licence for Barakah Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 & 2, in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi.
Nuclear operator, ENEC officially started the construction of the UAE’s first nuclear power plant on 18 July 2012, pouring the first batch of nuclear safety concrete for Barakah Unit 1.
(Photo credit: ENEC)