Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation is getting ready to begin powering unit 1 of its Barakah atomic power plant, as the UAE looks to significantly increase the ratio of clean power in its energy mix, according to its chief executive.
The Barakah nuclear power plant will add 5.6 gigawatts of capacity to the grid when fully operational and will establish the UAE, the Arab world's second-largest economy, as a significant civilian nuclear power producer in the region.
"By early 2020 we will be ready to begin the operating startup sequence for Unit 1," Mohamed Al Hammadi told delegates at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
"Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, along with its Joint Venture partner, the Korea Electric Power Corporation, and its operating subsidiary Nawah Energy Company, are safely approaching commercial operations of our first of four APR-1400 Units in Barakah," he added.
The UAE, which largely depends on gas to meet its power requirements, plans to cut its dependence on hydrocarbons to 76 per cent in 2021 from 98 per cent in 2012. The country, the third-largest crude producer within Opec, accounting for around 4 per cent of global oil production, plans to increase the contribution of clean energy to 44 per cent by 2050. Gas will account for 38 per cent of power generation requirements, while clean coal and nuclear will account for 12 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.
The UAE plans to spend around Dh600 billion by 2050 to meet the country's clean energy requirements, according to the government's website.
The country began construction of its South Korean-designed nuclear power plants in 2013, with four reactors each designed with a capacity of 1.4GW.
To begin generating power, the reactors are loaded with uranium pellets, which generate heat through a controlled nuclear reaction. This heat is transferred to water, which creates steam to drive the turbines.
The UAE signed a "123 agreement" with the US for the peaceful civilian use of nuclear energy and also has agreements with Argentina, Japan and Russia to cooperate in the atomic power sector.