The first unit of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, located in Abu Dhabi and a landmark in the sector in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), began operating "successfully", the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) reported Saturday.
"ENEC announced that its operations and maintenance subsidiary, Nawah Energy Company, has successfully started up Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, located in the Al-Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi," the Gulf country's energy entity said in an official statement.
This is the first time that the reactor produces heat safely, being used later to create steam and spin the turbine that will then generate electricity, under Nawah's operational activity.
"After several weeks and numerous safety tests, Unit 1 will be ready to be connected to the Emirates' power grid, producing the first megawatts of clean electricity for the nation's homes and businesses," the ENEC statement said.
ENEC is building four nuclear reactors in Barakah, with work beginning in 2013, and once it is up and running with all its units, it will produce about 5.6 GW of electricity, generating up to 25% of the UAE's electricity demand.
It was recently reported that the construction of Unit 2 was completed, while Units 3 and 4 are in their final stages, with the infrastructure already almost 95% complete. An initiative that includes the South Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), ENEC's partner in the joint venture associated with the project, which has been a feat of engineering with the participation of 18,000 people.
Emirates seeks to diversify its energy sources to reduce dependence on oil and gas, focusing on clean and renewable energy; this is one of the key points of the future strategy of the Arab country, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021.
According to official data, the country generates most of its electricity from natural gas and has set itself the goal of reducing the rate of production through gas from 98% in 2012 to 76% next year.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of UAE and ruler of Dubai, referred to the national success in the operation of the first peaceful nuclear energy reactor in the Arab world, within the Barakah project in Abu Dhabi: "The teams managed to load nuclear fuel packages, conduct extensive testing and successfully complete the operation.
"The goal is to operate four nuclear power plants that will provide a quarter of the state's electricity needs in a safe, reliable and emission-free manner. The UAE has split the atom and wants to explore the galaxy, a message to the world that the Arabs can resume their scientific path and compete with the rest of the great nations," added the Emirati vice-president, who wanted to leave the message that nothing is impossible for the Arab nation by referring to recent advances in energy and space research, the latter enhanced by the latest mission launched to Mars in which the Emirates and Japan are collaborating.