The first of four reactors being built at the United Arab Emirates’ Barakah nuclear power plant is 61 per cent complete and on track to start up in 2017, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC) said on Monday.
The $20 billion Barakah project, funded by the Abu Dhabi government, is expected to provide 24 per cent of the UAE’s energy by 2020, when all four reactors come onstream, ENEC’s chief executive Mohamed al-Hammadi told a conference.
In December 2009, the UAE awarded a group led by Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) a contract to build four 1,400 megawatt nuclear reactors to meet surging demand for electricity.
The plant’s second reactor, which was approved by the UAE regulator in 2012 alongside the first one, is over 50 percent complete, Hammadi said. Approvals for reactors 3 and 4 were given in October this year, with concrete pouring already started for unit 3 and expected for unit 4 by next year.
Soaring energy use and inadequate gas supplies have spurred the UAE to look to nuclear power to diversify its energy sources beyond. The UAE is the first Gulf Arab state to start building a nuclear power plant to generate energy.
Before giving the contract to the South Korean consortium, the UAE signed an agreement with the United States in early 2009 that forfeited its right to enrich uranium domestically. It awarded $3 billion in contracts to six foreign firms in 2012 to supply fuel for the Barakah project.
The contracts, which range from the purchase of uranium to conversion and enrichment services, will cover fuel supply for the first 15 years of operations.
Hammadi said ENEC was still considering options for the safe storage of spent fuel.
“Different options are being weighed – short-term, medium- term and long-term, as well as a fuel lease option,” he said without giving details.