DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – A nuclear power plant in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates has been connected to the country’s power grid, authorities said Wednesday.
The Barakah nuclear power plant in the Emirates’ far western desert near the border with Saudi Arabia began sending out electricity, according to the state-run WAM news agency.
WAM published a photograph of employees working inside the plant’s control room, though no independent media was there Wednesday to witness the event amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Associated Press for years has been requesting access to the facility.
On July 31, the plant’s first reactor reached what scientists called its “first criticality.” That’s when the nuclear chain reaction within the reactor is self-sustaining.
Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency and other regulatory bodies have seen and assessed the site. Authorities otherwise have maintained tight control over access to the facility even before the pandemic.
The plant has been considered a target by Yemen’s rival Houthi rebels since December 2017. They claimed then, without offering evidence, to have fired a cruise missile at it, something immediately denied by the UAE.
Plans call for four reactors to be operating at Barakah, which authorities say will provide some 25% of all energy needs in this OPEC-member nation.
The $20 billion Barakah nuclear power plant was built by the Emirates with the help of South Korea. It’s the first nuclear power plant on the Arabian Peninsula.
The U.S. has praised the UAE’s nuclear program for agreeing never to acquire enrichment or reprocessing capabilities, which prevents it from being able to make weapons-grade uranium. The U.S. says that’s a model agreement for other countries seeking nuclear power while also encouraging the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons