Al Barakah Nuclear Power Plant
File pic of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in Abu Dhabi's Al Dhafra region. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The construction of Unit 3 at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region is now complete, putting it on track to deliver clear power by 2023.

The announcement was made by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), which said Unit 3 is on track to deliver clean electricity by 2023. The plant already has two operational units, with Unit 1 already having begun commercial operations, and Unit 2 undergoing additional testing following its connection to the national grid.

ENEC, the plant’s owner, announced the Unit 3 completion on ‘Energy Day’ at the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 on climate change, demonstrating the UAE’s progress in transitioning to cleaner energy sources and its commitment towards rapidly decarbonising the power sector.

Cutting emissions

As the UAE’s bid to host COP 28 in 2023 is endorsed by the member states of the UN’s Asia Pacific group, the tangible efforts the nation is making in cutting carbon emissions as part of its climate commitments, and the recently launched 2050 Net Zero Initiative, are clear, the Abu Dhabi Media Office said in a statement. This milestone means that the Barakah plant will soon deliver yet another 1,400 megawatts of zero-emission electricity, highlighting the UAE’s leading role as a clean energy leader.

Nuclear energy

The Barakah Plant is one of the largest nuclear energy plants in the world, boasting four APR-1400 units. Construction of the Plant began in 2012, and has progressed steadily ever since. The development of the Barakah Plant as a whole is now more than 96 percent complete, with construction work continuing on Unit 4. When fully operational, the plant will produce 5.6 gigawatts of free carbon electricity for more than 60 years to come.

The plant is therefore leading large-scale decarbonisation of the UAE’s power sector, with Unit 1 becoming the largest single electricity generator in the region in April 2021, and producing clean electricity round-the-clock. Unit 2’s connection to the UAE grid in September 2021 propelled Barakah to the forefront of the nation’s emissions reduction efforts, and positioned it well on the way to doubling clean energy production.

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Clean energy commitment

By 2025, it is projected that the Barakah plant will have cut Abu Dhabi emirate’s carbon emissions by 50 per cent, demonstrating the significant abilities of nuclear energy in producing baseload electricity without generating carbon emissions.

Operational readiness

The focus of Unit 3 in the next phase will shift to completing the operational readiness preparations, testing, regulatory inspections, and international assessments. These are required to obtain the Operating License for Unit 3 from the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

“With Unit 1 already commercially operating and Unit 2 recently connected to the UAE grid, Unit 3 construction completion demonstrates the steady progress we are making with the development of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant. As the world gathers at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, the need for concrete actions to tackle climate change is indisputable and urgent. The Barakah Plant, with its rapid decarbonisation of the power sector, is delivering climate solutions today and with Unit 3 construction now complete, we are progressing smoothly towards supplying a quarter of the UAE’s electricity needs completely carbon free,” said Mohamed Al Hammadi, managing director and ENEC CEO.

Tackling climate change

“By developing nuclear energy in the UAE, ENEC is enabling sustainable growth and prosperity for the nation through the provision of abundant clean electricity, whilst underpinning intermittent renewables and creating a bridge to other clean energy technologies like green hydrogen. We are tackling climate change directly today, and will do for the next 60 years to come. We thank our leadership for the vision in diversifying the UAE’s power sources 15 years ago, and their unwavering support as we deliver the four units of the Barakah plant and make history in this year of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee,” he added.

Initial testing

Unit 3 of the Barakah Plant has already successfully completed a number of individual and combined system tests, including Cold Hydrostatic Testing (CHT), the Structural Integrity Test (SIT), and Integrated Leak Rate Test (ILRT), and the Hot Functional Test as part of the first phase of its Initial Testing Program (ITP). The ITP aims to ensure that the Unit’s systems operate in accordance with the highest industry standards, and will continue to do so during the operation of the plant over the coming decades.

Meanwhile, the FANR is carrying out detailed inspections and reviews of all aspects of the plant and its operating organisation.

International reviews

In addition to FANR’s extensive review process, and in line with the commitments made by the UAE in 2008 to adhere to the highest standards of safety, security, quality, non-proliferation and operational transparency, Unit 3 and its operating team will now undergo a number of assessments by independent international nuclear energy experts from the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO).