The UAE will begin building two of four nuclear power plants in partnership with a South Korean consortium, the first of which will begin production in 2017, the Gulf state announced Wednesday.
The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) said it has authorised the construction of the first two reactors in Baraka, west of Abu Dhabi -- each with a capacity of 1,400 megawatts.
The authorisation granted to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC) marks the "final approval for (constructing) the site," said FANR chief William Travers.
The approval was made after around 200 experts reviewed the request over an 18-month period, he told reporters, adding that starting the reactors will need a separate authorisation.
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Pouring concrete "will begin as early as today (Wednesday)," he said.
Additional measures have been taken to "strengthen nuclear security" in Baraka, said Hamad al-Kaabi, the UAE representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Last year, Japan's entire stable of nuclear reactors was shut down in the months after the disaster at Fukushima when an earthquake-sparked tsunami knocked out cooling systems causing meltdowns that spread radiation over a large area.
An international consortium led by the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp in December 2009 won a $20.4 billion deal to build four nuclear power plants in the Gulf country.
Under the biggest single contract Seoul has ever won abroad, South Korean firms including Samsung, Hyundai and Doosan Heavy Industries will build the four 1,400-megawatt reactors.