One year on from the award of a $20bn contract to build the first nuclear power plants in the Gulf, the UAE has filed construction licence applications for two reactors with the new nuclear regulator.

The applications for Braka Units 1 and 2 have been sent to the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and set out the safety case for both the plants and the proposed site in Abu Dhabi’s western Region.

Based largely on the safety analysis done for two units in South Korea – on which the Braka reactors are modelled – the applications represent the latest move in the UAE’s aim of achieving nuclear power by 2017. Replicating as far as possible the design of the Korean reactors ensures that the technology used in the Braka plants will have already undergone a licensing process before being inspected by FANR. There will be slight changes to the plant design to reflect the UAE’s climatic conditions and the specific requirements of FANR.

The ‘reference plant’ plan has allowed KEPCO, the head of the South Korean consortium that won the contract last December, and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) to finish the construction licence application relatively quickly.

Construction work on the first reactor is scheduled to start next year. The Korea Times has reported a KEPCO official as stating that construction of the Braka site’s harbours, breakwaters and waterways would be completed in 2011, along with labour accommodation for 10 000 workers.

ENEC is planning to have all four Braka reactors up and running by 2020.