Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. File
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
The UAE’s Nawah Energy Company (Nawah) of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) was issued on Tuesday morning its operating licence for the Unit 2 reactor of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant (Barakah) by the country’s independent nuclear power plant regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).
The issuance of the operating licence comes 13 months after the FANR issued the operating licence for the Unit 1 reactor in Feb. 2020 which was connected to the country’s electric grid in Aug. 2020. The operating licences of the two unit reactors are good for 60 years. With this development, expected is a further boost to the country’s diversification efforts on energy sources, as it veers away from the traditional oil and gas, particularly for increasing electricity demands. Other benefits from the safe and secure production of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes are already being looked into.
At the Tuesday Zoom press conference and in answer to Gulf Today’s question, UAE Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)/FANR deputy chairman Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi explained that the issuance of the operating licence means the Unit 2 reactor can now start the testings or “period of commissioning” for the ultimate commercial operations. This will be monitored 24/7 by FANR inspectors stationed within the four-unit reactor Barakah complex.
In answer to another question, Al Kaabi referenced to more opportunities for the UAE in enhancing its healthcare and industrial potential, when he stated that part of the country’s Nuclear Power Programme in collaboration with the IAEA since 2008 is for the “medical field (like) radiation and industries.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation website, the radiation produced through nuclear technology improves livestock productivity, soil and water balance, pest management, food safety, climate change adaptation, seasonal famine prevention, and an understanding of emergency response in case of an abnormality in the movement of radioactivity. Another positive outcome of a peaceful nuclear energy programme is zero carbon footprint.
A question was raised on the safety of the entire four-unit reactor Barakah complex, situated on the Arabian Gulf in Al Dhafra, Abu Dhabi, from possible “outside threats.” Al Kaabi said the issuance of the operating licence to the Unit 2 reactor includes the guarantee that the area is indeed completely shielded from any danger taking into consideration the “site, equipment,” physical design and layout, and emergency preparedness, alongside the manpower capability/capacity requirements in accordance with international standards, the fundamentals of which are IAEA guidelines.
He said the UAE has been in close collaboration with the IAEA “since Day 1” when the country’s leadership decided to pursue its Nuclear Power Programme in 2008. The FANR and the ENEC, in charge of developing peaceful nuclear energy production, were set up in 2009. ENEC subsidiary Nawah, which oversees and operates Barakah, constructed by the Korea Electric Power Co., a consortium consisting of Samsung, Hyundai, Doosan, and Westinghouse, was established in 2016.
Al Kaabi said the UAE is looking forward to extending its nuclear energy expertise to other countries as “exchange of information and working groups with regard to nuclear safety, security and regulatory framework” are already ongoing with Saudi Arabia. He said over 20,000 people have been involved in Barakah, the construction of which is ongoing as the Units 3 and 4 reactors are approximately over 90 per cent complete. Among the 250 Nuclear Power Programme employees are over 100 Emiratis.
FANR-Nuclear Security Department director/Nuclear Safety Department acting director Sara Al Saadi, who specified the details of the approval for the release of the operating licence, said employees are given the chance to continuing learning education by way of scholarship programmes.
In his opening statement, Al Kaabi said: “This is another historic moment for the UAE, being the first Arab country in the region to operate a nuclear power plant and culminating efforts of 13 years in building such a programme. This milestone was achieved due to the UAE’s vision and its leadership to build a peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme to cater for the future needs of energy in the country.”
The decision to issue the Operating Licence is a culmination of efforts made by FANR since it received the Operating Licence Application from ENEC, on behalf of Nawah, in 2015 for Units 1 and 2.
Summary: "Today marks a new chapter in our journey for the development of peaceful nuclear energy with the issuing of the operating licence for the first Barakah plant," His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said in a tweet
The milestone is an important step in the ongoing Power Ascension Testing (PAT) of Unit 1, which involves slowly raising the reactor power levels while collecting data and tuning control and safety systems.
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