The United Arab Emirates started operations at the first nuclear power plant in the Arab world, on the Gulf coast, east of Qatar.
The nuclear fission process started in one of the four reactors at the Barakah plant, which uses South Korean technology.
The initial forecast for the plant’s inauguration was 2017, but the launch was postponed several times due to different safety problems.
The oil-rich UAE wants Barakah to meet a quarter of its energy needs.
Just two weeks ago, the United Arab Emirates sent a probe on a mission to Mars – another cutting-edge scientific initiative for the Gulf nation.
The UAE is also investing heavily in solar energy – an abundant source of energy in the region.
Some energy experts question Barakah’s logic – which means “blessing” in free translation from Arabic. They argue that solar energy is cleaner, cheaper and makes more sense in a region plagued by political tensions and terrorism.
Last year, Qatar called the Barakah plant “a flagrant threat to regional peace and the environment”. Qatar is a bitter regional rival to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
On the other side of the Gulf is Iran, hostile to the United Arab Emirates and subject to US sanctions for its controversial nuclear program.
Paul Dorfman, head of the Nuclear Consulting Group research institute for nuclear initiatives, wrote last year that “the tense geopolitical environment in the Gulf makes the nuclear issue more controversial in this region than elsewhere, as nuclear power offers the ability to develop and manufacture nuclear weapons”.
In his analysis, the London-based scientist also raised concerns about Barakah’s safety for technical reasons, highlighting the risk of radioactive pollution in the Gulf.