UAE: Barakah nuclear power plant gets Unit 2 operating licence

Abu Dhabi - Operating licence has been issued to Nawah for 60 years.


Ashwani Kumar

Published: Tue 9 Mar 2021, 11:44 AM

Last updated: Tue 9 Mar 2021, 11:52 PM

The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) on Tuesday granted the operating licence for Unit 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, located in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region. The announcement on the commercial operations of the plant’s Unit 1 is also expected this month, a top official confirmed.

The operating licence, which has been issued for 60 years, authorises the plant operator Nawah Energy Company to commission and operate Unit 2, said Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and deputy chairman of the FANR.

“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,” Al Kaabi said.

The approval for Unit 2 follows Unit 1’s successful connection to the UAE’s power grid in August 2020. The commercial operation of Unit 1 — which can generate 1,400MW of clean electricity — is expected to be announced this month. “Unit 1 had been connected to the national electricity grid. We expect the test period to end soon and we will make the announcement on the commercial use soon,” Al Kaabi said.

Sara Al Saadi, director of nuclear security department and acting director of nuclear safety department of FANR, pointed out that 14,000-page applications of Unit 1 and 2 have been reviewed prior to the approvals. “Around 220 inspections were conducted and 59 additional information for Unit 2 sought on aspects related to reactor design, safety, security to ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements,” she said.

Unit 2’s operating licence has been issued after an exhaustive review process, including the assessment of applications from the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation in 2015 and rigorous inspections to ascertain the plant’s layout design, site location, physical protection, emergency preparedness, safety and response system, decommissioning plan and other aspects. “This is the result of intensive work and collaboration with national and international stakeholders such as the IAEA, Republic of Korea and other international regulatory bodies,” Al Kaabi said.

Now, Nawah will undertake a period of commissioning to prepare for Unit 2 for the commercial operation. “FANR will carry out round-the-clock inspection to ensure the fuel load and testing processes are completed according to requirements. Following the completion of the commissioning phase, FANR’s role will transform into an oversight role during the commercial operation of Unit 2,” Al Saadi added.

The other half of the power plant is also nearing completion, with Unit 3 now at 94 per cent and Unit 4 at 88 per cent. Overall, the construction rate is more than 95 per cent. Once fully operational, the plant can generate 5,600MW electricity, with each unit having a 1,400MW capacity.

Once are four reactors are online, the plant will provide around 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity, which will be clean, efficient and reliable. The electricity will also prevent the release of up to 21 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually — the equivalent of removing 3.2 million cars off the roads each year.

What happens when Barakah’s Unit 1 begins commercial operations?

Starting commercial operations means that the testing phase, which includes the connectivity to the grid, has achieved desired results and all the systems of the unit have been carefully examined from aspects of safety, reliability and efficiency, the experts explained on Tuesday.

However, it is not yet known whether the electricity from the plant will result in lower tariffs for residents.

In 2016, ENEC’s subsidiary Barakah One Company signed a power purchase agreement with the Emirates Water and Electricity Company to purchase all of the electricity generated at the plant for the next 60 years. Electricity produced at the plant will be fed into the national grid in the same manner as other power plants, flowing to homes and businesses across the country.

Photo: Wam
Photo: Wam

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