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Large Nuclear Reactor Reaches Full Power in United Arab Emirates

On December 7, the first nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates began generating 1,400 MW of power, which is only slightly less than the output of Minnesota’s Clay Boswell and Allen S. King coal-fired power plants, combined.

The power plant, called Barakah Unit 1, is one of four large nuclear power plants under construction. Each of the plants will feature the Korean-designed APR1400. According to the World Nuclear Association:

“Construction of Unit 1 – the first nuclear reactor to be built in the UAE – began in 2012 and was completed in 2018. The reactor started up in July of this year, and was connected to the grid in August. The unit has been undergoing power ascension testing, under the oversight of the UAE’s national nuclear regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.”

The Barakah nuclear power plant is being built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation. Unit 2 was completed in July, and units 3 and 4 are now 93% and 87% complete, respectively. When fully operational, the four-unit plant will provide around 25% of the UAE’s electricity and prevent the release of up to 21 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually, ENEC said.”

While the Barakah plant took longer to build than anticipated, it will deliver a massive amount of electricity that emits no carbon dioxide emissions.

If we assume the plant operates at 92 percent of its potential output (this percentage is also known as a capacity factor) it would generate 11. 3 million megawatt hours of electricity over the course of a year. This is more electricity than the combined output of the entire wind turbine fleet in Minnesota, which generated 10.7 million MWh in 2018.

Even though the Barakah plant took about eight years to build, it will decarbonize the electricity sector faster than building wind turbines in Minnesota, which we have been mandating since 2007. In other words, it took 13 years to generate less electricity with wind than Barakah Unit 1 will generate next year.

This is why it is a very bad idea for politicians to try force the energy sector to conform to their desired energy reality. The very same people who thought we were running out of oil and natural gas are now the ones telling us that only wind, solar, and battery storage can save the planet, even though these energy sources take longer to generate less carbon dioxide free energy than building new nuclear power plants would.

Minnesota needs to immediately legalize new nuclear power plants and encourage utilities to begin planning for an atomic future. In doing so, we could utilize our existing coal and natural gas plants for the remainder of their useful lives to save money for Minnesota families and businesses, and not risk the rolling blackouts that affected California in August because they are too reliant on weather-dependent wind and solar.