Civilian Nuclear Energy Cooperation
As part of the UAE’s Energy Strategy 2050, 50 percent of the national energy supply will be generated by clean sources by midcentury. The development of a peaceful nuclear energy sector is a key component of that strategy, reflecting the UAE’s commitment to diversifying its energy mix and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. In March 2020, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced the successful completion of fuel assembly loading into Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, making the UAE a peaceful nuclear energy operating nation. Once all four units of the plant are commercially operating, the UAE's Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant will initially produce up to 25 percent of the country's electricity requirements and save up to 21 million tons of carbon emissions each year (this is equivalent to removing 3.2 million cars off the roads annually).
The US is actively supporting the development of the UAE’s Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program. In December 2009, the United Arab Emirates and the United States entered into a bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear energy cooperation that enhances international standards of nonproliferation, safety and security. Known as a “123 Agreement,” the pact establishes a required legal framework for commerce in peaceful nuclear energy technology between the two countries. Over the past ten years, the landmark agreement has been consistently reaffirmed as the “gold standard” by US officials across administrations and nonproliferation experts for its commitment to safety, security and operational transparency.
Senator Sam Nunn, a nonproliferation expert and former chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, cited the UAE’s leadership in safe and transparent nuclear energy development as “an especially powerful example” for other countries to emulate. "We are very grateful for the important leadership of the UAE in showing the world how nuclear power can be advanced safely, without contributing to nuclear proliferation dangers,” he said.
Following the March fuel load, the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant will begin a process known as power ascension testing, in which the systems are gradually tested to prepare for the start-up and subsequent operations that will generate clean and efficient electricity for homes, businesses and civil utilities across the country. The UAE’s Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program is generating valuable, long-term contracts for services, construction, equipment and training. A number of US firms, including Westinghouse, are involved in the process of building the station's physical infrastructure and training engineers and operators.