(ATTN: ADDS KEPCO's statement in last 3 paras; AMENDS dateline)
TEHRAN/SEOUL, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) -- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has started operations at the first unit of the South Korean-built Barakah nuclear power plant, Dubai's ruler said Saturday, marking the first operation of a peaceful nuclear reactor in the Arab world.
Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum said in a Twitter post that nuclear fuel was successfully loaded into the first reactor of the nuclear power plant.
In 2009, a South Korean-led consortium won a US$20 billion contract to build four nuclear reactors in Barakah, 270 kilometers west of Abu Dhabi, in South Korea's first export of its homegrown commercial atomic power technology.
The first reactor was completed in 2018, and the three others are under construction.
The combined output of 5,600 megawatts at the power plant will supply up to 25 percent of the UAE's electricity needs.
Last year, the South Korean consortium secured a five-year maintenance deal for the Barakah nuclear plant, including providing maintenance services and experienced manpower to Nawah Energy Co., the operator of the UAE nuclear plant.
With the Barakah plant launching startup operations, it is expected to move toward commercial operations.
In a statement, Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) said the first reactor in the Barakah plant is increasing its output and will send electricity after some tests are finished.
KEPCO said it will spare no efforts for the remaining three reactors to successfully start operations.