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UAE shows path for peaceful nuclear development

Fuel assemblies have been loaded into the first of four UAE nuclear power plants following the country's yearslong effort to develop major national and international support for nuclear energy.

Last week, the United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country to operate a nuclear power plant when nuclear fuel assemblies were loaded into unit one of its Barakah nuclear plant. The decision in 2008 to introduce nuclear energy into the power mix was primarily driven by considerations of energy security, cost, non-oil diversification and decarbonization at a time when wind and solar had not fully hit their strides; in addition, the perceived benefits of having a nuclear energy program included prestige and strategic relevance.

In the ensuing 12 years, state entities in the UAE worked tirelessly to forge coalitions to sustain a long-term commitment to nuclear energy. After all, reactor units in Austria and Germany were finished but then decommissioned even before going into operation. Vietnam, which broke ground on its first nuclear plant in 2014, scrapped its plans and removed nuclear power from its future energy mix two years later. Other countries, including Australia, Kuwait, and Singapore, planned for but never built nuclear plants.

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