NAT Barakah22-1580213788159
Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant plant Image Credit: Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC)

Abu Dhabi: The UAE nuclear power plant’s first reactor is ready to start operations, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) said on Tuesday.

Nawah Energy Company, an operator and subsidiary of Enec, which is responsible for developing and managing nuclear energy in the UAE, said tests by an independent body concluded that unit 1 of Barakah, in the Abu Dhabi desert, is ready to generate energy.

Nawah has been readying operational activities ahead of its first nuclear fuel assembly load into Unit 1 within 10 days to two weeks.

This is expected to happen in the first quarter of the year, after Nawah receives an operating licence from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), the UAE’ independent nuclear regulator.

Once the fuel assemblies are loaded into the reactor, Nawah will begin the start-up sequence for Power Ascension Testing, where operators will safely raise power generation levels over eight to 10 months prior to commercial operation at the beginning of 2021.

International reviews

A team of nuclear industry experts from the Atlanta Centre of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) assessed the plant in November 2019. Experts reviewed performance, maintenance and emergency preparedness.

“The fact that our first unit and our team of experts successfully completed this international start up assessment by WANO is a major milestone for the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program,” said Mohammad Al Hammadi, CEO at Enec.

“It provides international recognition that our plant, people and processes meet international start up standards and that the Barakah plant fully aligns to the commitments made in 2008 by the UAE of complete operational transparency, and the pursuit of the highest standards of safety, quality and security. We take this achievement with great responsibility while we continue to support Nawah in obtaining regulatory approval from the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation, to safely and gradually commence producing clean, safe and reliable electricity [that will] power the growth of the UAE for the next 60 years,” Al Hammadi added.

Nuclear power in the Arab World

The UAE is the 33rd country in the world and the first in the Arab world to have an advanced peaceful nuclear energy programme.

Upon completion of the work on the remaining four reactors at the Barakah plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra area, the project will contribute to reducing 21 tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to removing 3.2 million cars annually from the roads.

Enec also said that work on the second reactor is now 95 per cent complete. The third reactor is 92 per cent complete and the fourth is 83 per cent complete.

UAE’s power mix

The Barakah plant has been built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation, in a deal worth over $20 billion (Dh73.46 billion).

When fully operational, the four reactors should produce 5,600 megawatts of electricity, around 25 percent of the UAE’s needs. This is in line with national plans to source 50 per cent of energy from renewables by 2050.