ABU DHABI: Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced it has, together with Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), completed initial construction activities for Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant and the turnover of all plant systems to Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) (a subsidiary of KEPCO) for testing and commissioning, in preparation for safety-led nuclear operations.
The completion of initial construction work of Unit 1 was preceded by the successful completion of the Hot Functional Test (HFT) at the end of 2016. The HFT is one of the major testing requirements under the Construction License for Units 1 & 2, which was granted by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) in 2012.
ENEC signed the contract for the construction of the Barakah plant with KEPCO in 2009. The handover of Unit 1’s 277 systems from KEPCO to KHNP for commissioning marks the end of initial construction activities of Unit 1 and the start of the preparatory phase for nuclear operations.
“The completion of Unit 1 construction activities and the handover of all systems for commissioning are important milestones in a project that is critical to the future energy mix of the UAE, and they reflect the professionalism and dedication of everyone involved in the project,” said Mohammad Al Hammadi, Chief Executive Officer of ENEC.
Following the satisfactory completion of commissioning activities by KHNP, Nawah Energy Company (Nawah), a joint venture between ENEC and KEPCO established to operate Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant Units 1-4, will assume operational responsibilities for Unit 1.
However, as per UAE regulatory law, the construction, start-up and operations of nuclear energy plants are subject to regulations issued by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), and the loading of fuel and actual operation of Unit 1 will require the approval of FANR and the issuance of an operating license. FANR is conducting a rigorous and stringent review of the operating license application, which was submitted by ENEC in March 2015, and carrying out numerous inspections of construction and operational readiness to support this review.
In addition to the extensive review by FANR, senior nuclear experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) will also conduct a series of voluntary, but independent assessments of the robustness of the operating infrastructure and the proficiency of the operations personnel that will ultimately bring Unit 1 into full commercial operation.
“As part of the commitments made to the international nuclear community in its 2009 white paper, the UAE pledged that its nuclear operations would be guided by IAEA and WANO standards and best practices, and we look forward to continuing our work with these entities and to benefiting from their insights and experience as we realise this commitment,” said Al Hammadi.
Only after the successful conclusion of these legally-mandated and voluntary reviews, and upon FANR approval of the operating license for Unit 1, will Nawah proceed with Unit 1 fuel load and plant start-up.
ENEC also announced the approval by its Board of Directors of a timeline update for the start-up of Unit 1, to achieve the highest possible nuclear quality and safety standards. The approval follows a series of assessments by ENEC, Nawah and international experts, as well as lessons learnt from Shin Kori Unit 3 in South Korea, the reference plant for Barakah. The timeline includes an extension for the start-up of nuclear operations for Unit 1, from 2017 to 2018, to ensure sufficient time for international assessments and adherence to nuclear industry safety standards, as well as a reinforcement of operational proficiency for plant personnel.
“Since 2009, ENEC has pursued the highest standards of nuclear quality, safety and operational transparency,” said Al Hammadi.
“The approval of a timeline update projecting the initiation of Unit 1 nuclear operations in 2018 reflects the conservatism of ENEC’s management and Board of Directors, as well as our local, federal and international stakeholders, all of whom stand firmly united in the belief that long-term sustainable operations begin with strict adherence to nuclear safety. We believe that our continuous focus on quality and safety will position the UAE as a trusted contributor to the community of nuclear operators around the world,” continued Al Hammadi.
The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is the largest single new nuclear energy project in the world, with four APR-1400 units under simultaneous construction. Construction of Unit 1 commenced in 2012 and at full operational capacity, the four units will deliver up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity needs from carbon-free nuclear energy. The project as a whole is now 79 per cent complete, with Unit 1 being 95 per cent complete.