04 Jan Risk of the UAE’s growing nuclear energy sector
The launch of two nuclear reactors at the Barakah power plant in Abu Dhabi in 2021 has demonstrated the growth of nuclear energy in the UAE. With a further five reactors in the Middle East due to become operational over the next two years – four reactors at Barakah and Iran’s Bushehr reactor – there is cause for concern over the safety of nuclear facilities in the Gulf, due to limited experience in the operation of such facilities in the UAE and the known risk of seismic activity.
Since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, important analysis revising the risks of spent nuclear fuel fires has been produced by Frank von Hippel, Professor and Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University and the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.
Based on thousands of dispersion simulations using real historical weather data, the results show that several major cities in the gulf region could be contaminated by cesium 137 fallout if a spent fuel fire occurred at Barakah or Bushehr.
The cities at the highest risk from fires at Barakah are those centered around the Gulf of Bahrain: Doha, Manama, Dammam, and al-Hofuf.