Al Barakah Nuclear Power Plant
Al Barakah Nuclear Power Plant Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Construction at the Barakah Nuclear Plant continues to remain on track according to the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), with the COVID-19 pandemic causing no major disruptions to the site.

“The construction of Units 2-4 were halted somewhat – a few weeks – but have now resumed almost completely,” said Christer Viktorsson, director general of FANR during a virtual live session organised by the regulatory body.

“Our common goal… from the beginning was to make sure that the nuclear site at Barakah is a COVID-19 free site and will remain so, which we have so far managed to do thanks to the great effort by the nuclear industry in the country,” Viktorsson said.

Viktorsson also highlighted how FANR was able to continue its inspections at the nuclear site, crediting the organisation’s resident inspector policy.

“A strong point of FANR is that we had resident inspectors in place, so we have maintained the resident inspectors at the Barakah site for longer periods than normal – two or three weeks, and then replacing them with others.

“We have had a special focus on Unit 1, which is the reactor that is now in the nuclear commissioning stage, the operators hope to reach the nuclear criticality stage in some weeks,” he added.

The operating licence application for Unit 1 was approved back in February, which started the official commissioning phase involving the loading of fuel into the reactor.

Moving forward, Viktorsson said it would be important for nuclear bodies from around the world to share their experiences and how they have responded to the pandemic, with FANR ready to share its own best practices.

“We need to discuss and we need to share good practices, we have all developed certain practices now that we can share with each other.

“[In our case] we have the resident inspectors, which is very useful to have in a situation like this and so we were fortunate to have that… Having smart regulatory services for licencing is also a very good practice that has been of significant use,” he added.

Viktorsson also highlighted how the nuclear industry was still heavily reliant on human expertise when it comes to safely running a nuclear power plant.

“Technology cannot replace humans, the reactors are still depending on the human hand in order to operate safely, and so we need to care for the skills of the experts and make sure that we manage them in a way that is secure and there when we need them.”