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KEPCO Nuclear plant in Abu Dhabi set to be operational in five years

Abu Dhabi’s nuclear power plant is “on track” to go online by 2017.

Thousands of workers have been deployed at Baraka, a remote site on the emirate’s coast, to build the US$20 billion (Dh73.46bn) power station in partnership with Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, the Abu Dhabi Government company overseeing the programme.

“The target is fixed,” said Hee-Yong Lee, the senior vice president for overseas nuclear at Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) and the former manager of the UAE project.

“We are on track,” he added on the sidelines of a nuclear conference in Dubai.

The UAE is the first country to embark on a new civil nuclear programme since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. After the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant last year, the Emirates and other developing nations are set to carry the torch of nuclear growth.

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog, downgraded its projection for global growth in nuclear power. Most of that will centre in east Asian nations such as China and South Korea.

Kepco is now courting India, Saudi Arabia and other developing nations as potential nuclear export markets. But with 10 reactors under construction, including four in the UAE, additional exports will rely on having enough people to build and operate those facilities, said Mr Lee.

“Maybe we will be constrained if it is over our capacity,” he said. “With our government, we are trying to mobilise new people into the nuclear power industry in order to meet the manpower requirements.”

South Korea’s nuclear industry is also trying to put behind it this year’s shake-up in leadership following a power outage at the country’s oldest plant.

After reports emerged in March that staff had destroyed records of the incident, the chief executive of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) resigned and other top positions were shuffled. KHNP is helping to build and operate the UAE plant.

“Once the leadership is settled down then I think everyone will follow the new leadership in the new direction of safety culture,” said Mr Lee.

“The transition will be promotion of safety culture, promotion of transparency, promotion of trust … The quantitative measure of nuclear safety is quite difficult.”

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