The first unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates has received its operating licence from the UAE’s Federal Office of Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and commenced loading its first charge of nuclear fuel. The start-up has been eagerly awaited, as is was originally planned for 2017. The reasons for those delays have now been overcome and the international community is confident the plant is in a full state of readiness to produce electricity.
The UAE’s nuclear programme has been subject to many international peer reviews. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has conducted 11 such reviews, with the last two being the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) in July 2018, and, in September 2019, its emergency preparedness. In addition, the World Association of Nuclear Operators, WANO, has undertaken 30 support missions and peer reviews, the latest of which concluded that following an extensive operational readiness assessment, Unit 1 is ready for start-up.
Mr. Mark Reddemann, Chief Executive Officer of Nawah Energy Company (Barakah’s operator), said: “Successfully completing WANO’s PSUR [Pre-start Up Review] of Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is a testament to our commitment to the highest national and international regulations and standards. As we progress towards the secure and safety-led start-up of Unit 1, we will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure we demonstrate our readiness to receive the Operating License from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, as we work to pursue the highest standards of operational excellence.”
In a recent article entitled A Strategic Perspective of Barakah: a Success in International Cooperation, the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the IAEA, Hamad Alkaabi, said “Thanks to our visionary leadership, along with a team of remarkable experts working in close collaboration with international entities, we have worked over the span of a decade to steadily progress to become the 33rd nation to enable nuclear operations for peaceful purposes.”
The four-unit 5600 MW(e) plant is being developed jointly by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). The four 1400 MW(e) APR-1400 units, based on the Shin Kori 3 & 4 reactors in South Korea, will supply nearly 25% of the UAE’s energy needs and save 21 million tons of CO2 emission each year. With Unit 1 completed, Unit 2 is at 93% completion and Units 3 and 4 are at 91% 82% respectively.
Another country about to embark on a new nuclear future is Belarus. Their two 1194 MW(e) reactors are Russian designed VVERs and fully constructed, awaiting the go-ahead to load their first fuel. As with the UAE, the country’s ability to operate a nuclear power plant has been subject to international peer review by the IAEA and WANO.
Bangladesh and Turkey have started construction of their first power reactors, and Egypt is well advanced in developing its nuclear infrastructure. Saudi Arabia is also rapidly developing its plans to construct two large nuclear plants, as well as smaller plants for desalination purposes.
Worldwide, new reactor construction is now at a 30-year high, with more newcomer countries embarking on nuclear programmes. If these programmes are successful, it will result in a corresponding reduction in the dependency on fossil fuels.
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