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UAE to launch tender for four new nuclear reactors

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will tender shortly for the construction of a new nuclear power plant that would double its nuclear capacity, Reuters has reported, citing three sources familiar with the matter. The UAE plans to seek bids this year, possibly within the next few months, to build four new reactors, the sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, requesting anonymity to discuss details that are still private.

The UAE currently operates the first multi-unit operational nuclear power plant in the Arab world. Construction of the Barakah nuclear power plant began in 2011. Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) led the consortium that is building the plant comprising four APR1400 reactors. Unit 1 was connected to the grid in 2020, followed by unit 2 in 2021 and unit 3 in 2022. Unit 1 began commercial operation in April 2021 and unit 2 in 2022 and unit 3 in 2023. Unit 4 was connected to the grid in March.

The UAE aims to award the tender and start construction as soon as this year so that the new plant would be operational by 2032 in order to meet projected energy needs, according to Reuters’ sources. The tender would be open to any potential bidders, including US, Chinese and Russian firms, the sources added but South Korea would not be treated as a preferred bidder.

Asked about plans for a second plant, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) said it was ready to review and issue the necessary licences and regulations that would be needed when and if the government decides to build new plants. The UAE energy ministry referred Reuters to FANR for comment.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Co (ENEC), which owns the Barakah plant, said in a statement in January that it was, "focused on exploring opportunities in the UAE and overseas to maximise the full value of the expertise developed in nuclear mega project program delivery and technology deployment, subject to confirmed demand, and approvals from the relevant UAE authorities”.