DUBAI (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi's environment agency has approved plans for the United Arab Emirates' first nuclear power plant, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said on Sunday, adding that it is still awaiting a construction license.
The no objection certificate from the environmental regulator is one of several approvals needed for construction to begin on the two reactors at the Barakah nuclear power plant.
"Nuclear energy is one of the ways in which Abu Dhabi is demonstrating its commitment to the environment, as nuclear energy plants emit almost zero carbon emissions during operations," ENEC chief executive officer Mohamed Al Hammadi said.
"With four nuclear energy plants delivering electricity to the grid by 2020, we will be delivering 5,600 megawatts of low carbon electricity to the national grid," he said, adding the plants should avoid emitting about 12 million tonnes of carbon each year.
The UAE, one of the world's highest per capita emitters of the climate-warming gas, in December 2009 awarded a South Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) a contract to build four nuclear reactors to meet rapidly rising demand for electricity.
Last year's Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, caused by a huge earthquake and tsunami, has prompted some countries to reconsider their atomic ambitions.
The UAE wants to reduce its dependence on imported natural gas but after applying for permission in December 2010, ENEC still does not have a construction licence from the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR).
(Reporting by Daniel Fineren; Editing by Stephen Powell)