The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) is on track to commission the first of four planned nuclear power plants in May, 2017, with one coming on stream each year until 2020, when all four will be operational, said Mohammad Al Hammadi, Chief Executive Officer of Enec.
“We are on track with our mission to bring safe, clean, reliable and efficient nuclear energy to the UAE by 2017, and a number of significant milestones have already been achieved by Enec and our partners,” Al Hammadi told the audience at a public forum held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec) to educate the public on the progress of the $20 billion (Dh73.4 billion) power plant.
Enec started construction work on its second nuclear energy plant earlier this year following regulatory approvals. Construction of Unit 1 commenced in July 2012. Enec is building a total of four nuclear energy plants in Barakah, in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. 
With four plants online by 2020, nuclear energy will deliver up to a quarter of the nation’s electricity needs, while saving the UAE up to 12 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
Enec’s dedicated industrial development team has also been working with Kepco, the programme’s prime contractor, to help local companies develop their quality and technical standards to meet the nuclear industry’s strict requirements, as part of Enec’s commitment towards developing the local industry.
“We are pleased to see the dedication from local companies to meet high international standards with their products and services. Today, more than 200 UAE companies supply products and services to the programme with more than $1 billion in contracts awarded to local companies to date,” added Al Hammadi.
Lady Barbara Judge, former chairman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, praised the UAE’s nuclear programme as a “gold standard”.
“The UAE nuclear programme  is clearly the best thought through and resourced programme in the world today,” said Lady Judge, who sits on the International Advisory Board (IAB) — the body mandated to provide an independent assessment of the UAE’s peaceful nuclear energy programme, reporting directly to the leadership of the nation.
The UAE, which agreed to give up any enrichment or reprocessing activities in a 2009 treaty with the US, is often touted as a contrasting model to Iran and its ambiguous approach.
The UAE, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has agreed to open its nuclear plants to full international inspections and refrain from producing its own reactor fuel.
When ready, the Barakah site’s four 1,400 MW units are expected to produce 5,600 MW, which will be about 25 per cent of the total power requirements of the UAE.
The forum was attended by Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development, senior executives from Abu Dhabi Government and more than 300 residents who listened to Enec’s senior management and Emirati engineers as they provided insights and updates on the nation’s nuclear energy programme. Over 900 more witnessed the live streaming of the forum online.
The event was part of an ongoing public education and outreach programme which aims to increase awareness and understanding of the nuclear energy programme across the UAE .
Al Hammadi shared the latest developments of the programme as it moves ahead on schedule to develop and operate the nation’s first nuclear energy plants.
Enec executives and engineers also answered a variety of questions on the safety and security of the power plants in Barakah. The forum was also an opportunity for those seeking a better understanding of what opportunities exist for Emiratis interested in a career in the nuclear energy industry.
Enec offers a series of scholarships through its Energy Pioneers programme such as the high diploma programme, the bachelor and the master programme. The Human Capacity Development programme is designed to attract talented students and professionals to the growing nuclear energy sector.
The nuclear public forums are open to everyone and have been regularly held across the country over the last four years. More than 4,000 residents have attended the Enec forums which have taken place in various locations across the Western Region, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Sharjah and Dubai.
Enec will host its next forum in Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort and Spa, Ras Al Khaimah, at 11am on Thursday. All residents are invited to attend. For more information, visit www.enec.gov.ae .