UAE completes historic start up of Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant

GCC country becomes first Arab nation to utilise nuclear power as ENEC CEO says plant can be an ‘engine of growth’ for the UAE

The UAE has officially become the first country in the Arab world to successfully start a nuclear reactor after testing began at Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant on Saturday.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, ENEC, has called the safe start up by its operating and maintenance subsidiary, Nawah Energy Company, Nawah, as “the most historic milestone to date in the delivery of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme, as part of the process towards generating clean electricity for the Nation for at least the next 60 years.”

Construction of the plant by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and its coalition partners began in 2011. Progress towards its completion has accelerated in recent months with the beginning of testing effectively being sanctioned by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulations (FANR) when Nawah recieved its Operating License in February 2020, with the completion of fuel assembly loading following shortly after in March.

According to the UAE news agency WAM, Nawah – a JV nuclear operations and maintenance subsidiary of ENEC and the Korea Electric Power Corporation, KEPCO – conducted a comprehensive testing programme prior to starting the reactor to safely produce heat.

“Nawah’s qualified and licensed team of nuclear operators focus on safely controlling the process and controlling the power output of the reactor. After several weeks and conducting numerous safety tests, Unit 1 will be ready to connect to the UAE’s electricity grid, delivering the first megawatts of clean electricity to the homes and businesses of the Nation,” reported WAM.

Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Chief Executive Officer of ENEC, added: “Today is a truly historic moment for the UAE. It is the culmination of more than a decade of vision, strategic planning and robust program management. Despite the recent global challenges, our team has demonstrated outstanding resilience and commitment to the safe delivery of Unit 1. We are now another step closer to achieving our goal of supplying up to a quarter of our Nation’s electricity needs and powering its future growth with safe, reliable, and emissions-free electricity.

“Through the realisation of the vision of our Leadership, the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has become an engine of growth for the Nation. It will deliver 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity with zero carbon emissions while also supporting economic diversification by creating thousands of high-value jobs through the establishment of a sustainable local nuclear energy industry and supply chain.

“We are grateful to the Leadership for their continuous support in making this remarkable achievement happen, along with the support of our UAE stakeholders and Korean partners, and congratulate everyone involved in the Programme on this landmark occasion.”

The heat from the reactor is used to create steam to turn a turbine for generating electricity. Once connected to the UAE’s national power grid, the nuclear operators will continue with a process of gradually raising the power levels, known as Power Ascension Testing, PAT.

Following international standards of safety, quality and security the testing will continue until the plant is ready to “deliver abundant baseload electricity at full capacity to power the growth and prosperity of the UAE for decades to come”, added the WAM report.

“The start-up of Unit 1 is a significant milestone for Nawah Energy Company as we fulfill our mandate to operate and maintain the plant in accordance with the highest international standards of safety and quality,” said Eng. Ali Al Hammadi, CEO, Nawah. “The dedication of our people as well as our close collaboration with our Korean partners and cooperation with numerous international expert organisations has enabled this accomplishment. This reflects our commitment to upholding the highest safety, quality and operational transparency standards throughout the entire commissioning and startup process by leveraging the expertise of the global nuclear industry.

“I am especially proud of our talented UAE National engineers and nuclear professionals who contributed to the construction of Unit 1, as well as the UAE National Senior Reactor Operators and Reactor Operators who have been certified to safely operate the plant, alongside our international experts, to ensure the safe and sustainable operations of the unit for decades to come.”

According to WAM, when fully operational, the plant will produce 5.6 gigawatts of electricity while preventing the release of more than 21 million tons of carbon emissions every year, equivalent to the removal of 3.2 million cars from the UAE’s roads annually.

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