A Strategic Perspective of Barakah: a Success in International Cooperation

Nov 09, 2020
As the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UAE Special Representative for International Nuclear Cooperation, I am proud to have been given the opportunity to engage with responsible nations around the world for the promotion of peaceful nuclear energy. 

In only a decade, the UAE has evolved from a new entrant in civil nuclear programs, to a reputed nuclear developer that has established culture of operational transparency and high nuclear safety and quality standards. This approach has meant that our vision of delivering peaceful nuclear energy has been reached more efficiently and effectively than any other nuclear new build program. Thanks to our visionary leadership, along with a team of remarkable experts working in close collaboration with international entities, we have worked over the span of a decade to steadily progress to become the 33rd nation to enable nuclear operations for peaceful purposes. 

In retrospect, it is important to remember that the starting point of the journey of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program commenced in 2006. Back then, the strong economic and social growth of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) caused a significant surge in electricity demand. This power demand highlighted the need to bring more power generation technologies to increase the energy security and diversity of our electricity sector, reduce our dependency on fossil fuel for power generation, while also increasing our energy diversification and, most of all, deliver a more environmentally sustainable electricity sector. 

The mandate was clear: the UAE required new power generation technologies to produce safe and clean electricity to power its growth over coming decades.  To achieve this, a strategic selection process to choose the power generation technologies commenced. This comprehensive process analyzed all the forms of proven technologies in the electricity generation industry. It measured them against a series of strategic criteria which included the capacity to contribute to energy security, diversification and environmental sustainability. The result of this comprehensive process selected renewable energy and peaceful nuclear energy as the technologies to power our future, in a complementary manner, alongside the existing fleet.    

Today, it is remarkable to witness the delivery of that energy planning study coming to fruition. In renewable energy, the UAE has emerged to become the largest producer of electricity from renewable resources in the Middle East, producing an estimated 80% of the entire renewable power generation in the region. 

While the UAE continues to significantly expand the use of renewable energy in its power sector, the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant (BNEP) plays a strategically critical and complementary role: as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states nuclear energy “remains the only major dispatchable low-carbon source of electricity other than hydropower[1].” 

In simple terms, it is the only generation form that can produce significant volumes of electricity around the clock, with almost zero carbon emissions.

The four units of the Barakah plant will produce electricity safely and reliably, with a capacity to meet 25% of the country’s electricity demand. The production of electricity in Barakah will also enable the largest emission cuts in the history of the UAE electricity industry, saving the equivalent emissions of about 3.2 million cars every year. This will change the game for the electricity sector and set the Nation on a new path of sustainable development. 
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