Hamad Alkaabi, the country's representative to the IAEA, says that this is an “Historic milestone for the nation with a vision set to deliver a new form of clean energy”. Nuclear fission has begun in one of four reactors. Oil-rich UAE wants Barakah to meet a quarter of its energy needs. Qatar calls the plant a "flagrant threat to regional peace and environment”.
Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday announced the start-up of its Barakah nuclear power plant, a first for the Arab world.
"UAE first nuclear reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has achieved first criticality and successfully started up," tweeted Hamad Alkaabi, the country's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"This is a historic milestone for the nation with a vision set to deliver a new form of clean energy for the nation," he added.
Nuclear fission has begun in one of four reactors at the Barakah plant, which uses South Korean technology. The oil-rich UAE wants Barakah to meet a quarter of its energy needs, as it adopts more sustainable energy sources.
However, some energy experts have questioned the power plant’s logic, arguing that solar power is cleaner, cheaper and makes more sense in a region beset by political tensions and terrorism.
In 2019, Qatar called the Barakah plant a "flagrant threat to regional peace and environment”. Scientists also highlighted the risk of radioactive pollution in the Gulf.
The UAE Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, tweeted that work at Barakah had "succeeded in loading nuclear fuel packages, carrying out comprehensive tests and successfully completing the operation”.
"Congratulations on realising this historic achievement in the energy sector & marking this milestone in the roadmap for sustainable development," Sheikh Al-Maktoum added.
The UAE started loading fuel rods into the reactor at Barakah in February, after regulators gave the green light for the first of the plant's four reactors, opening the way for commercial operations.
Located on the Gulf coast, west of Abu Dhabi, the plant had been due to go online in late 2017 but faced a number of delays that officials attributed to safety and regulatory requirements.
The UAE has substantial oil and gas reserves, but with a power-hungry population of 10 million it has made huge investments in developing clean alternatives, including solar energy.
The plant is a regional first. Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has said it plans to build up to 16 nuclear reactors, but the project has yet to materialise.