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Official: UAE’s first nuclear unit ready for start-up


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Abu Dhabi: An international team of nuclear industry experts has deemed the first unit in Abu Dhabi’s Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant ready for start-up.

The announcement was made on Tuesday by the UAE’s nuclear plant developer, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), and its subsidiary, Nawah Energy Company, following a pre-start up review of the unit in Al Dhafra by the Atlanta Centre of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO).

“The fact that our first unit and our team of experts successfully completed this international start up assessment by WANO is a major milestone for the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program,” said Mohammad Al Hammadi, chief executive officer at Enec.

“It provides international recognition that our plant, people and processes meet international start up standards and that the Barakah plant fully aligns to the commitments made in 2008 by the UAE of complete operational transparency, and the pursuit of the highest standards of safety, quality and security. We take this achievement with great responsibility while we continue to support Nawah in obtaining regulatory approval from the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation, to safely and gradually commence producing clean, safe and reliable electricity [that will] power the growth of the UAE for the next 60 years,” Al Hammadi added.

The pre-start up review

The WANO pre-start up review is a globally-recognised nuclear industry assessment conducted in line with the international industry standards. During the review, which took place in November 2019, expert teams reviewed and examined numerous functional and cross-functional areas that are essential for the safe start-up and operation of the unit, ranging from operator performance and operations and maintenance, through to work management and emergency preparedness.

This review also comes after a series of assessments carried out by several national and international regulatory organisations during the past years. International collaboration with nuclear organisations is a central commitment of the 2008 Policy of the UAE on the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy.

Start-up process

Nawah, which is responsible for operating and maintaining the Barakah plants, has been undertaking operational readiness activities as it prepares to load the first nuclear fuel assemblies into Unit 1. This is expected to happen in the first quarter of the year, after Nawah receives an operating license from FANR, the UAE’ own independent nuclear regulator.

Once the fuel assemblies are loaded into the reactor, Nawah will begin the start-up sequence for Power Ascension Testing, where operators will safely raise power generation levels over a number of months prior to commercial operation.

UAE’s power mix

The Barakah plant will then be the Arab world’s first operational nuclear reactor. It has been built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation, in a deal worth over $20 billion (Dh73.46 billion).

When fully operational, the four reactors should produce 5,600 megawatts of electricity, around 25 percent of the UAE’s needs. This is in line with national plans to source 50 per cent of energy from renewables by 2050.

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