The United Arab Emirates has started construction of its second nuclear power plant and expects it to begin commercial operations in 2018, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said on Tuesday.
The UAE awarded a South Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corp a contract to build four nuclear reactors to meet rapidly rising demand for electricity.
Construction began in mid-2012 on the Barakah-1 reactor, which will be the first serving a Gulf Arab OPEC oil producer when it starts up in 2017.
“With the construction of our second plant now underway, we have reached another important milestone in our mission to bring safe, clean, reliable and efficient nuclear energy to the UAE,” ENEC Chief Executive Mohamed Al Hammadi said in a statement.
ENEC applied for construction licences for Units 3 and 4 in March 2013.
Soaring energy use and inadequate gas supplies have spurred the UAE and Saudi Arabia to look to nuclear power to diversify their energy supplies for decades to come.
The Gulf OPEC market is an important lifeline for nuclear power plant builders around the world whose businesses have been hit hard by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011.
The UAE hopes that once the four reactors are up and running in 2020 they can help avoid emitting 12 million tons of climate-warming carbon per year.
They will also help the UAE continue to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), mainly to Asia, by reducing its own consumption of gas that it currently relies upon to generate nearly all its electricity.