UAE to host international nuclear emergency exercise

The IAEA's most comprehensive emergency exercise, involving more than 170 countries, will take place later this year. The exercise is to be held at the Barakah nuclear power station that started to generate electricity last summer 

The Barakah nuclear power station. Photo: Wikiemirati – Own work,

The United Arab Emirates was chosen to host the next emergency exercise of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a complex exercise that is held once every three to five years, and is expected to take place in the last quarter of 2021.  

The Al-Arabiya network reported that the exercise expected to involve more than 170 countries will be held at the Barakah nuclear power station, located on the coast of the Persian Gulf east of the capital Abu Dhabi, about 340km away from the coast of Iran. The ConvEx-3 (Level 3 Convention Exercise), which is intended to test international responses and capabilities in the event of a nuclear emergency, is the IAEA's highest-level emergency exercise (ConvEx-1 and ConvEx-2 exercises are also held). 

The UAE is investing billions of dollars in development of renewable energy. Barakah, which started to generate electricity in August 2020, is the first nuclear power station on the Arabian Peninsula. Earlier this month, authorization was given for operation of the station's second reactor. There are eventually supposed to be four reactors that will produce about 25% of the UAE's electricity needs.  

Besides the proximity to Iran, the Emirati reactor faces another potential threat from the Houthis in Yemen, who according to a report by the Al-Arabiya network threatened to strike it because of Abu Dhabi's involvement in the Yemen conflict as part of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The permanent representative of the UAE to the IAEA, Hamad Al Kaabi, told AFP that "we took into consideration all these elements including physical security, cyber security, and protection against sabotage and any potential threat. It continues to be updated," he said. 

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