Emirates Nuclear Says Its First Reactor Is Closer to Start Up

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(Bloomberg) -- Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., building the world’s largest single nuclear project, is testing operations of what could be the first reactor in the United Arab Emirates.

The Barakah project of four plants in Abu Dhabi is more than 87 percent finished, with unit 1 being prepared and tested, ENEC said Wednesday in an emailed statement. In May, the project was 79 percent done, with the first unit 95 percent complete. Peter Dietrich, formerly of Southern California Edison Co., joined as chief nuclear officer, ENEC said in the statement.

The U.A.E., the fourth-biggest crude producer in the Middle East, is building nuclear reactors to diversify the economy and reduce its reliance on oil. The planned startup of the first reactor was delayed to 2018 from last year, in part to allow for more time for international assessments, ENEC said in May. Unit 1 still needs a regulatory review and an operating license from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, ENEC said in today’s statement.

The Barakah project will deliver almost 25 percent of the U.A.E.’s electricity needs, ENEC Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Al Hammadi told a conference in Abu Dhabi earlier Wednesday. Construction of the first unit started in 2012.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co, a unit of Korea Electric Power Corp., won a contract in 2009 to build Barakah. Nawah Energy Co., a joint venture of ENEC and KEPCO, was established to operate all four plants. Korea Electric owns 18 percent of the project, Hammadi said Wednesday.

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