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Two reactors of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant are currently covering 12.5 per cent of the UAE’s electricity requirement, said a top official from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).
Christer Viktorsson, Director-General of FANR, told Khaleej Times that 2,800 megawatts of clean energy from Unit 1 and 2, which have been operational, are reaching homes and industries across all the emirates of the UAE.
“Unit 1 and 2 are producing 12.5 per cent of electricity (needs of the UAE). Every unit has a capacity of 1.4 GW. So, it’s now 2.8 GWs (from Unit 1 and 2) when they are fully operational. Unit 1 is currently undergoing refuelling. Unit 2 is operating at 100 per cent. When they start up, we will have two units producing 100 per cent, which means 2,800 MW out to the national grid, and distributed to the industries and homes of the UAE,” Viktorsson said after a press conference held to announce the issuance of operating licence for Unit 3.
Commercial operations of Unit 1 started from April 2021 and Unit 2 from March this year.
Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Deputy Chairman of the board of management of the FANR, noted that Unit 3 has met all the requirements to be granted the operating licence.
“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 14 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,” Al Kaabi said.
Now, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation’s (ENEC) subsidiary Nawah Energy Company (Nawah), responsible for the operation of the plant located in the Al Dhafra region, will undertake a period of commissioning to prepare for the commercial operation of Unit 3.
Viktorsson said that the operating licence is for a duration of 60 years and authorises Nawah to commission and operate Unit 3.
“The decision to issue the operating licence is a culmination of efforts made by FANR since it received the operating licence application for Unit 3 and 4 from Nawah Energy Company in 2017.”
The intensive assessment included reviewing of 14,000-page application for Units 3 and 4, conducting 120 inspections, analysis of the plant’s layout design, site’s location in terms of geography and demography, the reactor design, cooling systems, emergency preparedness, radioactive waste management, other technical aspects and Nawah’s organisational and manpower readiness with all the required processes and procedures to ensure the safety and security of nuclear power plant.
Viktorsson underlined that the assessment process has been done mainly by Emirati experts.
“I would like to underscore that the review of the operating licence application for Unit 3 was conducted by a team consisting of 70 per cent Emirati nuclear experts. This indicates the success of FANR’s strategy in building the capability and skills of Emiratis to regulate the nuclear sector and ensure its sustainability,” Viktorsson pointed out.
Al Kaabi noted that to ensure implementing the highest international standards of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation, in the past decade the UAE received 11 major peer review missions from the IAEA to review and assess various aspects from nuclear infrastructure, the legal and regulatory system, nuclear safety, nuclear security, emergency preparedness and non-proliferation.
“The UAE Nuclear Energy Programme, including the nuclear law and regulations, conforms to the safety standards of the IAEA and the international best practices, where FANR has ensured its implementation during the construction and operation of the plant.”
Al Kaabi, the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the IAEA, said that the UAE has some concerns over the Iranian nuclear programme.
“The UAE has clear principles for the development of a peaceful nuclear programme. We work closely with IAEA. The UAE’s stand is always to cooperate with IAEA, and to resolve any concerns when it comes to any nuclear programme of any country. In fact, there are some concerns when it comes to the Iranian nuclear programme. We hope to cooperate with IAEA and call for the international society to corporate with IAEA.”
According to reports, Iran has been non cooperating with the IAEA. This week, Iran disconnected some cameras allowing international inspectors to monitor its nuclear activities in response to a Western resolution passed on June 8 in which the UN agency denounced Tehran’s lack of cooperation.
The Barakah plant has four units with overall construction rate at 97 per cent. While Unit 1 and 2 are commercially operational, Unit 3 is in the commissioning phase and construction of Unit 4 is 92 per cent complete. For Unit 4, FANR has received an operational licence application from Nawah.
“It will be assessed in the fourth quarter of this year,” Al Kaabi said.
Viktorsson added: “Both the reactors (Unit 3 and 4) are essentially the same description and safety analysis. All these 14,000 pages of the application applies to both reactors. But they have to complete the construction (of Unit 4). We will now start the process of reviewing the licence application for Unit 4.”
Once all the four reactors are operational, the plant will provide around 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity, which will be clean, efficient and reliable. The electricity will prevent the release of up to 21 million tonnes of CO2 emission annually — the equivalent of removing 3.2 million cars off the roads each year.
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