This is a follow up to the post on Nuclear Energy's Role in Sustainable Development, finalist in the Masdar blogging contest for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2014.
Energy demand in the UAE is growing by about 9% per year and to meet this demand, the nation is one of the first in nearly thirty years to develop a new nuclear energy program. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) estimates that a quarter of the UAE electricity supply will be produced by nuclear energy by 2020. The country is committed to developing a safe and secure nuclear energy program with assistance from current nuclear energy countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
There are currently four reactor units planned at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant using the Korean (KEPCO) APR-1400 design, meaning that each unit will produce a total of 1400 MW of electricity. As of September 2014, the first unit (pictured above) is already over halfway constructed and is planned to open in 2017, with the other three units opening each year after that until 2020.
The UAE and KEPCO-led consortium are working closely with the IAEA to ensure that the nuclear power plant is constructed and operated in a safe and secure way. Because of tensions in the region, some are concerned about nuclear weapons proliferation from the spread of nuclear technology. The IAEA institutes safeguards and inspections in all nuclear energy countries to detect the diversion of nuclear material and facilities into non-peaceful uses. The UAE is a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty and committed to working with the IAEA in the development of its nuclear energy program. The country even decided to forgo sensitive nuclear technologies (enrichment and reprocessing) and rely on outside fuel suppliers.
As the first newcomer in nearly 30 years, it will be interesting to see how the UAE develops its nuclear energy program and leads the way for other nations in the region to follow.
Find out more about the UAE Nuclear Energy Program on the World Nuclear Association website.