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UAE issues license for first nuclear plant in Arab world

UAE issues license for first nuclear plant in Arab world
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The United Arab Emirates’ nuclear regulator approved a nuclear reactor Monday, paving the way for the first commercial nuclear power plant in an Arab nation.

The Barakah reactor, run by a joint venture with Korea Electric Power Corp., is now free to begin loading fuel and eventually begin full commercial operation over the next several months, Bloomberg reported, with other nations in the region, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, taking steps to enter the nuclear sphere.

“Barakah was meant to be the showcase for the international nuclear industry,” Mycle Schneider, an independent analyst, told the publication. “Grid connection is at least three years late, and there is no doubt that it is way over budget.”

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The reactor is one of four that the UAE hopes to have up and running by 2023, with an estimated cost of $25 billion for all four. They are projected to collectively produce up to 5.6 gigawatts, nearly 20 percent of the country’s current generating capacity.

The UAE is third in production among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and has worked in recent years to diversify domestic energy production and reduce dependence on oil. Dubai has set a 75 percent renewable energy target by 2050, according to Bloomberg.

The nation had about 30.4 gigawatts in installed power-generating capacity as of 2017, the vast majority of which involves burning natural gas, the publication reported.

“The U.A.E. has to build up a domestic pool of experts in many areas to keep these plants running smoothly and efficiently,” Mark Hibbs, nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Policy Program, told the publication. “That won’t be trivial because when this project got underway virtually all of the expertise was imported from outside.”