Mohammed Al Hammadi says first criticality at reactor number one will be ‘very soon’ Mohamed Al Hammadi speaks at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi in January 2020. Photo courtesy Atlantic Council. Operations at the Barakah nuclear station in the United Arab Emirates are “on schedule” despite the coronavirus pandemic, with first criticality at the first unit expected “very soon”, the chief executive of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation has said.

Speaking via video link to the Washington-based Atlantic Council, Mohammed Al Hammadi explained that, as a result of rigorous measures taken at the Barakah construction site, the Covid-19 virus had not affected the timetable for completion.

The four-unit nuclear station, 50km west of Ruwais on the Persian Gulf coast of Abu Dhabi, is the first commercial nuclear energy facility in the Arab world. The cost of the facility, which has four South Korea-suppled APR1400 units has been put at $24bn.

“Today we are on schedule,” Mr Al Hammadi said. “We are continuing with our plan and we will keep safety as the overriding priority… the current impact we have right now did not derail us from our plans.

“We are planning to go critical very soon. In a couple of weeks or month or so from now. We are targeting to get the units operational and start putting power to the grid before the end of the year.”

The Enec head said leadership at the corporation had worked quickly to assess the “multifaceted crisis” presented by the pandemic.

“We assessed the situation that we were in seven weeks ago. We did stop all the non-essential work at Barakah. We demobilised people from the head office to 90-100%. Almost everybody is working from home,” Mr Al Hammadi said.

“They looked at the construction site. Priority number one was to keep people safe and keep covid-19 out of Barakah. That was the ultimate goal. Nothing else.”

He explained the site was swiftly locked down and workers were monitored and tested. As a result, there have been no covid-19 cases at the site.

First fuel loading was completed in March at Barakah-1 after the receipt of an operating licence from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation on 17 February. The licence authorises the plant’s operation for 60 years.

Construction of the 1,345-MW Barakah-1 began in 2012 and was completed in 2018.

Enec said the plant is now ready for operating teams from Nawah, the operations and maintenance subsidiary of Enec and Korea Electric Power Corporation, to start operating the plant.

Enec is in the final stages of construction of the remaining three units at Barakah. The overall construction of the four units is more than 93% complete. Unit 4 is more than 83%, Unit 3 is more than 91% and Unit 2 is more than 95%.

The four units at Barakah will generate up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity demand, Enec said.

Date: Friday, 08 May 2020
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