Young Emirati experts ensure future of nuclear energy sector: FANR official

The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation has been playing an indispensable role in regulating the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant

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Published: Tue 19 Jul 2022, 3:47 PM

Young Emirati talents are drawn towards to the nuclear energy sector, which is a promising sign for the future, a top nuclear physicist from FANR said in Abu Dhabi.

Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) – the regulatory body for the UAE’s nuclear energy sector – has more than 250 employees with 72 per cent Emirati workforce ensuring safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear and radiation activities in the country.

FANR has been playing an indispensable role in regulating the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. Its team, which conducted 120 inspections and reviewed 14,000-page application to issue operating licence for Unit 3 in June this year, had 70 per cent Emirati experts.

According to Christer Viktorsson, Director-General, FANR, the number of local nuclear experts continues to grow.

“We have managed to make many Emiratis into experts from scratch. We are very proud of it,” he told Khaleej Times.

Viktorsson underlined that building Emirati capability in the nuclear regulatory sector has always been a priority for FANR.

“In 2021, we qualified an additional 14 inspectors as part of FANR Inspectors Qualification Programme. This raised the number of qualified inspectors carrying out licensee inspections across the country to more than 80.”

FANR is responsible for regulating the design, siting, construction, operation and decommissioning of the Barakah plant. To ensure the preparedness of FANR cadre for the operational phase, Emirati staff receive further skills enhancement training with respect to the design and operation of the plant. The focus falls into two primary areas: general fundamental training and station systems training. In March this year, eight employees completed the Senior Reactor Operator Management Certification Programme in cooperation with Nawah Energy Company. The 25-week intensive training programme enhances employees’ knowledge and inspection skills of the Barakah plant and its systems.

“We invest a lot in our staff, in getting them skills,” Viktorsson noted.

Long-term career opportunities for Emirati employees at FANR are encouraged through focused recruitment, competency-based progression, knowledge transfer, and training and development programmes.

“We try to retain talent. We have programmes for retention. These are valuable people. Everyone who has been an expert in nuclear energy is very valuable for us because we can’t easily hire them from outside. We have to bring them up to speed in house,” Viktorsson said.

FANR continues to attract talented Emiratis to support FANR Emiratisation targets. FANR’s Developee programme for fresh Emirati graduates provides engineering and science graduates with the fundamental knowledge necessary to understand technical concepts applicable to nuclear engineering, radiation protection and regulation.

“We are hiring all the time. We make sure to increase the number of Emiratis. We hire from universities in the country. The number of youth here is high. It gives promise to the future. It gives sustainability to the organisation.”

FANR grants scholarships to Emirati employees to complete qualifications at leading institutions such as Zayed University, Manchester University, the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and Khalifa University.

“We are proud that two female employees obtained post-graduate degrees (master’s and PhD) in nuclear engineering. A third female completed a nine-month intensive safeguards training programme at the IAEA, paving the way to become the first Emirati female international nuclear non-proliferation inspector,” Viktorsson noted.

Last year, Huda Al Tamimi, a nuclear non-proliferation engineer at FANR, became the first female Emirati to join an intensive nuclear safeguards training in the Safeguards Department of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.


Women and leadership

Women make up over 43 per cent of the overall workforce and hold 50 per cent of leadership positions and play key roles in FANR’s nuclear safety, nuclear security, radiation safety, and education and training departments. Also, 33 per cent of FANR technical employees and 15 engineers are females.

“Internationally we are high in this (gender equality) competition if you would say so. We also take part in an international gender balance group of regulators where we share practices of how to enhance gender balance in regulatory authorities,” Viktorsson added.

With the demanding nature of the job, FANR also encourages staff with Employee Happiness and Well-being Programme. There are regular activities held focused on employee engagement, volunteering, mental health, team spirit, and positivity. FANR’s internal events scored a staff satisfaction rate of 97 per cent in 2021.

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