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The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced it has launched a tender for a domestic nuclear fuel assembly fabrication facility for the Barakah NPP. "Over the past 18 months, we have been conducting an extensive review into the needs of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme going forward and specifically the strategic supply of the fuel assemblies needed to power the UAE's Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant over the next 60 years ahead," ENEC said. "As part of examining a range of options, we have entered into the tendering for a domestic fuel assembly fabrication facility."

ENEC noted that the fuel assembly facility would not involve either enrichment or reprocessing. However, “the fabrication of fuel assemblies remains a regulated nuclear activity, given the need for stringent nuclear quality standards”.

As part of its nuclear energy policy, the UAE made the decision to forgo domestic uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel reprocessing, two key elements of the country's commitment to non-proliferation. Fuel assemblies are currently manufactured in South Korea by Kepco Nuclear Fuel – part of the prime contractor consortium led by Korea Electric Power Company – and then shipped to the UAE.

ENEC conducted an extensive procurement competition with international nuclear fuel suppliers and signed contracts with six suppliers to provide materials and services for the fuel. These included: the purchase of natural uranium concentrate; the purchase of enriched uranium product and related products and services; and conversion and enrichment services.

In December 2023, ENEC, also signed a commercial uranium fuel supply contract with Kazakhstan’s National Atomic Company (NAC) Kazatomprom JSC. ENEC said the contract opens pathways for future collaboration building on its long-established diversified procurement strategy to ensure a secure and sustainable supply of nuclear fuel. “ENEC has a comprehensive strategy for fuel management at Barakah, signing contracts back in 2012 with a number of global suppliers to ensure a sustainable and secure fuel supply,” said ENEC Managing Director & CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi. “With a significant positive shift in many nations to include civil nuclear energy as part of their energy mix, security of supply for fuel is paramount. Adding Kazamtomprom only boosts our roster of fuel partners further.”

Construction of the Barakah NPP began in 2011. Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) led the consortium that is building the plant comprising four APR1400 reactors. Unit 1 was connected to the grid in 2020, followed by unit 2 in 2021. Unit 1 began commercial operation in April 2021 and unit 2 in March 2022. Unit 3 was connected to the grid in October 2022 and unit 4 completed hot functional testing in July 2023 in preparation for commercial operation. Once all four units are operating, they will contribute up to 25% of the UAE's National Determined Contributions to Net Zero and be the largest source of dispatchable clean electricity.

Image: The Barakah nuclear power plant (courtesy of ENEC)

Date: Friday, 26 January 2024
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