The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has recently announced the commencement of operations in the 1st unit out of the 4 reactors at its Barakah nuclear power plant.
ENEC (Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation), which is currently building & operating the plant in collaboration with KEPCO (Korea Electric Power Corporation), has reportedly stated that Nawah Energy Company, its subsidiary, has started up the Unit 1. The plant is located in Al Dhafrah, Abu Dhabi.
ENEC has stated that the recent start-up of the Unit 1 marks the safe production of heat from the reactor for the first time, which has been adopted to create steam and generate electricity by turning a turbine.
Barakah was originally scheduled to be opened in 2017. The operation of this high-budget plant has been delayed previously as it raised several concerns regarding the potential risks of the plant upon the Arabian Peninsula. These risks range from environmental catastrophe to the nuclear arms race.
Sources have apparently reported that Barakah’s reactors lack key safety features such as a ‘core catcher’ to prevent the reactor’s core from breaching the containment building during the meltdown. Additionally, the reactors are missing the ‘Generation III Defense-In-Depth’ reinforcements to shield against any radiological release due to missile or fighter jet attacks. However, these engineering features are standard on the new reactors that are built in Europe.
In the Middle East, there have been over 13 aerial attacks on nuclear facilities. The vulnerability of the critical infrastructure in Arabia was further increased in 2019, after 18 drones and 7 cruise missiles attacked the oil facilities at Khurais and Abqaiq.
Reportedly, there has been no regional protocol put in place to determine the liability of any potential incident or accident that takes place at Barakah that may result in radioactive contamination spread from the UAE to its neighbors.
Despite the presence of substantial oil & gas reserves, the UAE has made high investments in developing nuclear, solar, and other alternative energy sources.