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UAE starts producing nuclear energy, a first in Gulf region

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First 1.4 GW nuclear reactor started up on Aug. 1

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Dubai — The UAE, OPEC's third-largest oil producer, started producing nuclear energy from a 1.4 GW nuclear reactor, becoming the first country in the Gulf to use such a source for power generation.

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Nawah Energy Co. started up Unit 1 of the Barakah nuclear energy plant in the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi., its parent Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. said Aug. 1 in a statement.

The start-up follows the granting of the operating license from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulations in February, and the completion of fuel assembly loading in March, it said.

"After several weeks and conducting numerous safety tests, Unit 1 will be ready to connect to the UAE's electricity grid, delivering the first megawatts of clean electricity to the homes and businesses of the nation," ENEC said.

Start up had been delayed since 2017 following the start of the building process in 2012.

Once all four reactors are up and running, the plants will supply up to 25% of the UAE's electricity needs or 5.6 GW.

"ENEC recently announced the construction completion of Unit 2, with operational readiness preparations now underway by Nawah," it said. "Construction of Units 3 and 4 of the Barakah nuclear energy plant is in the final stages, with the overall construction completion of the four units now standing at 94%."

The UAE, which currently relies mostly on natural gas for power and water generation, is adding renewables and nuclear power to its energy mix as it frees up gas for consumption in industries and other sectors.

South Korea's KEPCO in 2009 won a $40 billion deal to construct the nuclear reactors.