On August 1, 2020, the UAE activated Unit 1 of the Barakah Energy Plant and produced the very first megawatts of clean and eco-friendly electricity in the history of the Arab world. This landmark facility is the country’s first nuclear energy plant and one of the biggest clean energy projects globally. This historic milestone placed the UAE among an exclusive list of approximately 30 countries with nuclear power capacity, as well as the first new nation to launch a nuclear power plant in the last three decades.
The Barakah plant is an undeniable symbol of the UAE’s tremendous growth in clean energy, sustainable development and nuclear safety. Shortly after connecting Unit 1 to the power grid, nuclear operators began the power ascension testing (PAT) process and achieved 50% electrical production capacity. Expected to reach commercial operations by the end of 2020, this is the first of four nuclear reactors set to deliver clean electricity to UAE homes, business and commercial industries.This achievement is a major step towards fulfilling the UAE’s Energy Strategy 2050, an initiative to provide half of the country’s electricity with clean and emission-free sources by mid-century.
The journey to develop clean energy for the Arab world began in April 2008, when the UAE released a White Paper of the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy. This document ultimately laid the foundation for the country’s Peaceful Nuclear Energy Plan and corresponding partnerships with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It also gave rise to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).
The following year, the Ambassador endorsed the US-UAE 123 Agreement and helped forge the strongest bilateral agreement for civil nuclear energy cooperation to date. Named after Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, this pact is considered the “gold standard” of civilian nuclear partnerships and reinforces the UAE’s deep-rooted commitment to nuclear security, transparency and non-proliferation. Paying tribute to the immense progress at the Barakah plant, Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2020 detailing the many benefits of the UAE’s ambitious nuclear agreement.
Reflecting on the successful start-up on Unit 1, Ambassador Al Otaiba stated, “The connection of the first unit of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant to the UAE electricity grid is a momentous occasion for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and for partners of the UAE’s peaceful nuclear energy program. Electricity output will be steadily raised over the coming months, with Emirati families and businesses benefitting from this clean source of electricity. This positive environmental impact will be felt throughout the region and for generations to come”
The UAE’s Nuclear Energy Program has become a global model for energy and environmental stewardship and will ultimately supply clean baseload electricity throughout the region. As a cornerstone of this program, the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant will not only transform the UAE’s energy mix but help to combat the climate crisis and provide high-value jobs.