Aug. 1 (UPI) — The United Arab Emirates announced Saturday that it has launched operations in the first of four reactors at the Barakah nuclear power station, which has been described as the first nuclear power plant in the Arab world.
Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, which is building and operating the plant with Korea Electric Power Corporation in the Al Dhafrah Region of Abu Dhabi, published a press release saying Unit 1 of the plant has successfully started.
“The start-up of Unit 1 marks the first time that the reactor safely produces heat, which is used to create steam, turning a turbine to generate electricity,” the release said.
The plant, Barakah, was scheduled to open in 2017, but has run billions of dollars over budget and been troubled by delays, Al-Jazeera reported.
Nuclear energy veterans have raised concerns about potential risks associated with the plant.
Last year Paul Dorfman, an honorary senior research fellow at the Energy Institute, University College London and founder and chair of the Nuclear Consulting Group, authored a report last year saying Barakah’s reactors lack key safety features that are standard in newly-built nuclear plants elsewhere.
The missing features include “core catcher” to stop the core of a reactor from breaching containment in the event of a meltdown, and reinforcements that would shield against a radiological release resulting from a missile or fighter jet attack.
There have been at least 13 aerial attacks on nuclear facilities in the Middle East.
Barakah is located near Qatar, which is a regional rival of the UAE and which has called the plant a “flagrant threat to regional peace and environment.”