Who runs the UAE

United Arab Emirates Nuclear power as a climate-friendly alternative

The Barakah nuclear power plant on the coast of the Persian Gulf is a bit off the beaten track. It is almost 300 kilometers to Abu Dhabi and 50 to the Saudi border. The operating permit was issued in February, and the first of the four reactor blocks is now being tested. Hamad al-Kaabi, Vice-Chief of the United Arab Emirates Nuclear Regulatory Authority:

"This is a historic moment for the United Arab Emirates as it has become the first Arab country in the region to operate a nuclear power plant - the culmination of twelve years of work on this promising program."

(dpa-bildfunk / AP / Dmitri Lovetsky) Status report - "Relevance for nuclear power is slowly disappearing"
Experts see the civil use of nuclear power on the decline. The form of energy is now less attractive, said Mycle Schneider, co-author of the nuclear industry status report, in the Dlf.

The nuclear power plant was built by the South Korean company KEPCO for around 24 billion US dollars. This year it should go online. Together, the four blocks will supply 5,600 megawatts of electricity, around a quarter of the country's needs. The emiratis calculate: The wickedly large CO2 footprint of their nation is now shrinking by up to 21 million tons a year - it's like putting more than three million cars out of service every year. Gas turbines currently provide 98 percent of the emirates' electricity, the other two percent is solar energy. This mix should change: less gas, plus nuclear power, some coal - and more renewables. Because despite the entry into nuclear power, the Emiratis are sticking to their goal of becoming an important player in the field of renewables. The head behind it is Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, Minister of State in the cabinet. He says:

"In the UAE, the renewable energy sector has grown by more than 400 percent in the past ten years. And we are on our way to double this area again in the next ten years."

This week, a French-Chinese consortium was awarded the contract to build the world's largest photovoltaic system in Abu Dhabi, with a capacity of two gigawatts.

There should be no debate about the sense and nonsense of nuclear power

According to the official representation in the Emirates, nuclear power is one of the "clean" sources of energy. The Barakah nuclear power plant is "clean, safe and environmentally friendly," the media say, and the repository problem is only minor because there is little waste. The sense and nonsense of nuclear power, its dangers in the midst of a politically extremely unstable region, must not be discussed openly and controversially, just as fundamentally not about decisions by the country's leadership.
The Emirates have made every effort not to bring any further element of unrest to the Middle East with the power plant construction. Christer Viktorsson is the Swedish-Finnish head of the UAE nuclear regulator. He means:

"When the term 'nuclear' is used, many people think of non-peaceful (aspects). But here in this country, for example, the law only stipulates peaceful application."

(picture-alliance / dpa / photo report)

The Emirates contractually agreed with the USA to dispense with uranium enrichment and reprocessing. That makes military use of their nuclear program impossible. In addition, the country has committed itself to an inspection regime that goes beyond the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Since 2010 there have already been more than 40 reviews by the IAEA and the World Association of Nuclear Power Operators, says Hamad al-Kaabi from the Emirates' nuclear regulator proudly:

"This is exactly the approach that we are promoting to other countries in the region and around the world. It is about transparency and involving the international community."

How transparent the UAE's nuclear program is is already seen by some as the gold standard - perhaps also a role model for other Arab states that want to get into nuclear power. The most advanced is probably Egypt. A nuclear power plant can be placed on the Mediterranean coast by Russia. However, it is unlikely that the planned start-up date - the year 2026 - can be met.