Barakah nuclear energy plant - units 1 and 2. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A strategic drill is today kicking off at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi to maximise the preparedness of emergency response at the facility.

The drill – ConvEx-3 – is being organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which promotes the peaceful use of nuclear energy worldwide. It will be implemented under the supervision of the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA), and in accordance with legislative provisions of the UAE’s nuclear regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

The Abu Dhabi Media Office has reported that more than 170 countries and international organisations, along with 10 local entities, will participate in the advanced simulation drill. The two-day exercise will include several emergency scenarios without units of the Barakah Plant and its vicinity, and they are designed to ensure the UAE’s full preparedness and commitment to the highest standards of safety, security and transparency.

Complex drills

ConvEx exercises are complex international drills that take place every three to five years to test response capabilities, and early notification to international authorities, in cases of nuclear or radiological emergency. They also help evaluate the adequacy of current communication and cooperation protocols, as well as identify the areas of improvement for the national and international response systems, the NCEMA announced earlier this year.

The exercises are prepared at three levels of complexity. ConvEx-1 exercises are designed to test emergency communication links with contact points via phone, e-mail, and other electronic systems. ConvEx-2 exercises are designed to make sure that the mechanisms and methods of information exchange are in place. ConvEx-3 exercises, including the one that will begin at the Barakah plant today, are full-scale exercises designed to make sure that the system is fully tested.

International assistance

Planned at the international level, this exercise will include, for the first time in its history, the sending of international field assistance teams, which will support efforts made in the country to ensure the safety of residents, the NCEMA said.

Plant operations

The drill follows the start-up and connection of two units at the Barakah plant to the UAE national grid, with Unit 1 having begun commercial operations in April 2021. Two more units are currently under construction at the facility.

When fully operational, the Arab World’s first nuclear power plant is expected to supply 5,600 megawatts of clean energy to the grid, meeting 25 per cent of the UAE’s peak energy demand. This will also reduce the annual release of 21 million tons of carbon emissions.