Construction work has officially started on the UAE's first nuclear power plant, with work expected to start on the second reactor next year.
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said it has started pouring the first nuclear safety concrete for Barakah Unit 1.
ENEC said it will apply for an operating licence for Unit 1 in 2015 and will pour concrete for Unit 2 in 2013.
ENEC is building a total of four reactors at the Barakah site, the first which will be operational in 2017, with one additional reactor becoming operational each year up to 2020.
The announcement follows the receipt of the construction licence from the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and a No Objection Certificate from the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD).
ENEC said it has poured more than 1,500 cubic metres of concrete to form a portion of the foundation slab of the Barakah Unit 1 reactor containment building, which will ultimately house the nuclear reactor.
The next phase of construction will include an auxiliary building, turbine building and cooling water structures.
Reactor installation using a heavy lift crane will also have started by the end of 2012, ENEC said.
Construction of Barakah Unit 1 will take five years, with the plant expected to become operational in 2017, subject to further regulatory review.
"This has been a momentous week for the UAE's peaceful civil nuclear energy programme," said Mohamed Al Hammadi, ENEC CEO.
"As we begin construction of Barakah Unit 1, we reaffirm our commitment to maintaining the UAE's reputation for developing a world-class programme and ensuring that our work at site conforms with local, federal and international regulations."
Barakah, located in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, was selected as the preferred site for the plant following a comprehensive analysis of multiple locations across the UAE.
One of the most important factors in the selection of Barakah was the fact that it is in an area with a very low probability of earthquakes.
Studies have shown that the site area has been tectonically inactive for nearly 100 million years.
With four plants online by 2020, nuclear energy is predicted to save the UAE up to 12 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.
Korea Electric Power Corp, the country’s biggest electricity producer, won a contract in 2009 to complete four nuclear reactors in the UAE.