The nation’s first: In addition to transforming the energy sector, the Barakah nuclear power plant is set to bolster the local economy


The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Al Dhafra represents a first for the UAE and the Gulf region, and marks a milestone along the nation’s journey towards a diversified energy mix that reduces reliance on hydrocarbons, while also falling in with the UAE’s vision of a more diversified economy and a more sustainable future. The project is one of a number of big ticket energy related projects that is boosting the local economy.

Step By Step

Located approximately 53 km southwest of the city of Ruwais, the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant currently under construction will consists of four APR-1400 nuclear reactors. It is scheduled to come on-line successively over the coming years, with the first reactor having completed its initial construction work in May 2017 and expected to come on-line in 2018. In 2009 the prime contractor for the plant, the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), entered into agreement with the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) to deliver safe and clean nuclear energy to the UAE grid. The plant will have an installed capacity of 5.6 GW when fully on-line, and will provide almost 25% of the nation’s entire electricity needs, while also saving up to 12m tonnes in carbon emissions every year.

In October 2016 ENEC and KEPCO announced the formal financial close for the financing of the plant, with the independent subsidiary Barakah One private stock company set to represent the financial interests of the project. In early 2016 ENEC signed the Connection & Interface Agreement with the Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company (TRANSCO), establishing a contractual operating framework between the two entities that will allow for the electricity generated from ENEC’s four nuclear energy units located in Barakah to be transmitted over TRANSCO’s power lines. Additionally, in November 2016 Barakah One entered into a power purchase agreement with the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, with the pivotal agreement establishing the contractual framework under which the energy produced at Barakah will be delivered.

Economic Driver

In addition to providing a boost to the emirate’s energy diversification efforts, the project is also providing an injection into the economy of Al Dhafra. The value of contracts awarded to local companies involved in building the plant has reached $3.2bn, according to ENEC, with more than 1400 UAE-based companies involved in the work. In its current capacity, ENEC, Nawah Energy Company and Baraka One Company currently employ around 1900 people directly, a number which is estimated to rise to 2500 by 2020, with a number of indirect trickle down effects into sectors such as health care and transport. ENEC’s Emiratisation rate sits around 60%.

Competitive Edge

More significant still is perhaps the emergence of UAE-based companies as leaders in the region when it comes to nuclear energy, particularly at a time when many MENA countries are looking to develop their own nuclear programmes. This brings challenges too, in terms of capacity building and training a generation of nuclear specialists.

In an effort to foster this expertise, ENEC and Nawah Energy Company have launched a nuclear scholarship programme in partnership with Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi Polytechnic and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation in a bid to attract the brightest Emirati talent to the nation’s nuclear segment. In addition, the partnership with KEPCO is proving invaluable in terms of developing the UAE’s expertise, with Emirati students having completed internships and training schemes in South Korea via programmes developed in partnership with the South Korean firm. These investments in expertise and talent are crucial to ensuring the long-term success of the UAE’s Peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme, while also opening the door to the participation of UAE-based firms in the other nuclear developments being rolled out across the region. With projects like Barakah putting Al Dhafra ahead of the regional pack, it is well placed to supply experienced local talent, serving the energy needs of the wider UAE.