The photo is sourced from American Nuclear Society
The first two power units of the Barakah NPP were connected to the grid in August 2020 and September 2021 respectively, and were brought into commercial operation in April 2021 and March 2022. This experience has made it possible to launch the third reactor sooner than expected: the preparations, which began after the loading of nuclear fuel took upwards of five months less than the ones for the first power unit and four months less than those for the second one. Following the launch of the last of the four reactors, which will take place as early as this year, the UAE will be able to cover 25% of its energy demand through nuclear power.
The UAE was the first country in the Middle East to embark on building a nuclear power plant. One of the impetuses for the commissioning of these capacities was the development of technologies that could be used in sectors related to the energy industry, said Alexey Likhachev, Director General of Rosatom State Corporation, in an interview with Sergey Brilev, president of the Global Energy Association. “Back then at the dawn of the new millennium, they weren’t yet talking about the energy transition. Carbon footprint was generally an extra topic of conversation in discussions with senior political figures. Having a site for nuclear technology allowed for development of the country’s abilities linked to science, steel making, nuclear medicine and implementing technology in agriculture,” he noted.
The four power units of the Barakah NPP will also help the UAE reduce its carbon footprint. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, the UAE accounted for 12% of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the energy sectors of Middle Eastern countries in 2021. Phasing out of coal should be conducive to reducing this indicator: Global Energy Monitor estimates that the UAE decommissioned the country’s only coal-fired power plant in 2022. The plant has the capacity of 1.2 GW. At the same time, the country is launching new solar facilities: the aggregate capacity of photovoltaic panels in the UAE grew by 2.4 GW in the period from 2019 through 2022.
The UAE plans to achieve carbon neutrality as early as by 2050, even though the oil industry plays a major role in the country’s economy. In January 2023, oil production in the UAE totaled 3.1 mln barrels per day, the third-highest output among OPEC countries after Saudi Arabia (9.8 mln bpd) and Iraq (4.5 mln bpd according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy).