The United Arab Emirates has declared itself the first country in the Arab world to become an operator of a nuclear power plant following Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation's (ENEC) completion of fuel loading this week at Barakah unit 1 in Abu Dhabi. The UAE said it has thus joined a "limited group of countries worldwide", now 33 in total, that have "successfully developed the intellectual and infrastructural capacity to use nuclear energy to generate safe, clean, and reliable baseload electricity".The Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi (Image: ENEC)
Comprising four Korean-supplied APR1400 nuclear reactors, the plant will generate up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity demand, avoiding the emission of 21 million tonnes of CO2 that would otherwise have been produced by fossil fuels.
The UAE's status as a nuclear power plant operator is a responsibility it takes "very seriously", ENEC CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi said, adding that the company was "safely and steadily transitioning through the sophisticated, highly-regulated process to advance unit 1 towards full electrical generation capacity".
Fuel loading was led by a team certified by the UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) with more than 90% participation by Emirati personnel trained in the operation of APR1400 technology in South Korea. This team led the transferral and loading of the 241 fuel assemblies into unit 1 which was concluded earlier this week.
Al Hammadi said this high share of local expertise was an "important reflection that nuclear energy is an engine of growth for the UAE". He added: "Barakah is more than an energy plant: it brings prosperity and value to the UAE with new industrial and human capacity; it significantly improves the carbon footprint and energy security of the Nation; and it accelerates the decarbonisation of the power sector to contribute to alleviating global climate change."
The next step will be for the operating teams of Nawah, the operations and maintenance subsidiary of ENEC, and KEPCO, to start power ascension testing, which KEPCO will lead based on its experience of APR1400 units in South Korea.
To date, FANR has conducted more than 255 inspections to ensure the Barakah plant and its people and processes meet the highest standards of nuclear quality and safety. These national reviews have been supported by more than 40 assessments and peer reviews by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Association of Nuclear Operators to ensure alignment with international best practice in the nuclear industry, ENEC said.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News