Unit 2 at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Unit 2 at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi is back online after a scheduled refuelling and maintenance outage, the plant’s operators announced on Monday.

The unit had been shut down after 324 days of continuous commercial operations at the plant, owner Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced in a statement. Operational teams carried 8,000 planned maintenance activities, and replaced about a third of the fuel assemblies in the reactor core while also re-configuring the remaining fuel for optimal operations.

During the maintenance period, the plant’s Units 1 and 3 continued to operate normally, delivering clean fuel to the UAE grid. Unit 1 underwent a similar outage and maintenance process in 2022.

Clean energy goals

Since beginning commercial operations in March 2022, Unit 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has generated 10,402 gigawatt-hours of clean electricity, and prevented more than 5,000 kilotonnes of carbon emissions. ENEC said this is a significant contribution to the growing electricity needs of both Abu Dhabi where the plant is located. For the UAE, this is enabling the decarbonisation of the wider power sector, and also accelerating the its progress towards achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050.

Emirati expertise

Scheduled maintenance of the units is carried out every 12 to 24 months depending on the plant. Having already completed the Unit 1 refuelling and maintenance outage last year, operational teams used the operating experience gained to streamline outage activities for Unit 2. Emirati-led teams at Barakah continue to learn and build on the experience from conducting these scheduled outages, enabling enhanced outage delivery to bring each reactor back online safely, smoothly and as efficiently as possible.

Total contribution

The four Units at Barakah, once all commercially operational, will generate up to 5,600 megawatts of clean electricity around the clock, equivalent to almost 40 per cent of the UAE’s peak demand of about 15,000 megawatts during the hot summer months. With three units operating at maximum capacity, Barakah already generates more than 80 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s clean electricity.

Barakah’s capabilities showcase that nuclear energy has already made significant headway in meeting peak demand with reliable, clean and abundant electricity, ENEC said.

Once all four units are operational, the Barakah Plant is set to meet up to 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity needs, generating enough clean electricity to power up to 574,000 homes. This will be done whilst also supporting the UAE’s strategy for becoming a net-exporter of LNG (liquefied natural gas) by 2030 by replacing local gas consumption with clean electricity from nuclear. Barakah will divert up to $4 billion-worth of natural gas annually, which can be used for other energy needs or for international export.

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Climate action solutions

ENEC said this illustrates why the UAE’s data-driven approach to including nuclear in its energy mix was the right approach, as Barakah has enabled the delivery of a swift and sharp decarbonisation of the power sector at a time when many nations are still trying to identify how they will deliver Net Zero while making sure the ‘lights are always on’.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified several pathways to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in the coming decades with nuclear generation playing an important role in decarbonising the energy sector. It expects that by mid-century, the majority of primary energy will come from renewables and nuclear energy in most scenarios1. Additionally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) states that to achieve Net Zero by 2050, the world needs to double existing nuclear energy capacity from about 400 gigawatts to more than 800 gigawatts.

With COP28 set to be held in Dubai this November, Barakah is a proven modern case study for climate change solutions, ENEC said. The plant has been the result of a long-term, data driven strategy that is today paying dividends for the nation. Once fully operational, the Barakah Plant will prevent millions of tons of carbon emissions annually, while bridging to other clean energy technologies, such as clean hydrogen, and stimulate the growth of the Net Zero economy.

According to ENEC, the Barakah plant is also a catalyst for new technology development in the clean energy transition, including Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) development and next generation reactors, and clean molecules generation – steam, hydrogen and ammonia, along with heat. These are required to decarbonise hard to abate sectors such as shipping, aviation and heavy industries.