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Barakah: United Arab Emirates inaugurates the first nuclear plant in the Arab world

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.

The Abu Dhabi leader tweeted this photo of the Barakah team celebrating - @MohamedBinZayed - @MohamedBinZayed
Image: @MohamedBinZayed

‘Important milestone’

UAE leaders hailed the launch on Saturday as a symbol of the country’s scientific progress.

The Barakah plant was developed by Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). The energy will be generated by pressurized water reactors of 1,400 megawatts, called APR-1400 and projected in South Korea.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the main oversight body for the nuclear industry – praised Barakah in a tweet, saying that the plant’s Unit 1 “achieved its first criticality” – that is, generating a fission chain reaction controlled.

“This is an important milestone towards commercial operations and the generation of clean energy. The IAEA has supported [os Emirados Árabes Unidos] since the beginning of its nuclear energy program “.

Abu Dhabi’s leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, tweeted his congratulations “to this milestone in the roadmap for sustainable development”.

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