The prospective bidders are Bechtel, CH2M Hill, Fluor with Sargent & Lundy, and PB Power, all US-based, as well as Australia’s WorleyParsons. An award is expected by the end of 2008.

The nuclear power project is still in its early stages, with details of the number, location or capacity of the plants yet to be finalised.

Enec was created this year to oversee the development of the UAE’s nuclear power facilities. It is evaluating the viability of nuclear energy plans and consulting with international firms with experience of similar projects.

Its creation followed an earlier recommendation by the UN’s nuclear body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that the UAE should set up a nuclear energy programme implementation office to evaluate potential schemes.

Many observers expect Abu Dhabi to take the lead on the project, which means the plant is likely to be located in the emirate or in Fujairah. Abu Dhabi’s power plants are concentrated in Taweelah, where there are three. There is also one in Shuweihat and others are located at Umm al-Nar and Mirfa.

The nuclear programme comes in response to the soaring demand for power in the country. The UAE will require 22,000MW of additional capacity over the next seven years, equivalent to 12 large conventional power stations.