by Al Akhbar
The first of four nuclear reactors being built by the United Arab Emirates will become operational in 2017 and the rest will be fully functional by 2020, an official said Monday.
“When they are fully operational in 2020, they will generate 25 percent of UAE power needs,” the CEO of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC), Mohammed al-Hammadi, told an energy conference in Abu Dhabi.
Hammadi said that 61 percent of the first reactor has been completed and it is slated to start production in 2017, while work is underway on the second and third reactors as the site is being prepared for the fourth. The second reactor will come on line in 2018, the third the following year and the last in 2020.
ENEC’s CEO added that his firm has signed a $3 billion contract with international firms to provide fuel for the plants over 15 years.
In 2009, an international consortium led by the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp won a $20.4 billion (15.8 billion euro) deal to build four nuclear power plants in Baraka, west of Abu Dhabi. Under the biggest single contract Seoul has ever won abroad, South Korean firms including Samsung, Hyundai and Doosan Heavy Industries are building the four 1,400-megawatt reactors.
Also in 2009, UAE signed an agreement with the United States on nuclear cooperation, paving the way for the Gulf state to acquire nuclear technology.
According to Hamadi, another five percent of UAE electricity needs will be provided by renewable energy sources by 2020, helping the Gulf state to cut 12 million tons of carbon emissions.
Oil-rich UAE, pumping 2.8 million barrels per day of crude oil, opened the world’s largest operating plant of concentrated solar power in Abu Dhabi in March, which has the capacity to provide electricity to 20,000 homes.
Progress in UAE’s nuclear program comes at a time when Iran and world powers are negotiating to end a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear goals. The Islamic Republic insists that its program is for peaceful purposes, aiming at producing atomic energy to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
However, the West and Israel insist the fuel could be enriched to produce a bomb. Consequently, they imposed international sanctions on Iran that have crippled the country’s economy.
Unlike Iran, the UAE is a key Western ally and has avoided international scrutiny over its program.