The UAE's Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Al Dhafra Region, Abu Dhabi, today celebrated the successful completion of Unit 1 construction.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea visited the plant and declared the completion of the construction, said a Wam news agency report.
During the ceremony, both leaders highlighted the importance of this historic milestone that sets the UAE as the first Arab country to deliver a commercial nuclear plant to the highest standards of safety, quality and security, as well as the first nuclear newcomer since 1985.
With this strategic milestone achieved, Unit 1 clears the construction phase, and the project now shifts its focus to completing operational readiness preparations required to obtain the approval of the Operating Licence by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).
This latest accomplishment is the result of the close collaborative relationship between the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and its prime contractor and joint venture partner, the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco). While adhering to the highest standards of safety and quality, Enec and Kepco have completed Unit 1 construction in 69 months, in strict adherence to FANR regulations.
The accomplishment is even more notable, given the complete absence of any previous nuclear industry of infrastructure within the UAE, and it provides a positive reference point for other nations considering the adoption of peaceful nuclear energy.
Commenting on this milestone, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said: "This is a historic moment in our nation’s development as we celebrate the construction completion of Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant. The UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme will play a strategic role in the growth of our nation by enhancing our energy security, diversifying our economy, and creating employment opportunities for our people, thereby helping secure the future of generations to come."
He went on to express his pride in the role played by Emirati professionals in the project's development, working in close collaboration with government and regulatory partners, to ensure the delivery of Unit 1 to the highest standards of safety, quality and security. "Today is a historic day for the energy sector of the UAE, as we continue to make progress on one of our nation’s most significant projects," he added.
The event highlighted the strong relationship between the UAE and South Korea, which commenced back in 2009 when Kepco was appointed by Enec to lead the prime contract for the construction of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant.
"Nuclear energy will play a strategic role in the future of the Nation," said Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of Enec's Board of Directors. "With construction completion achieved, the UAE joins an elite group of countries that have managed to build such a complex and demanding facility to the highest standards of safety and quality. This milestone is a testament to the vision and commitment of the UAE’s leadership and the strength of Enec’s partnership with our prime contractor and joint venture partner, Kepco. Now, our focus is on the transition to the safe start-up of Unit 1 nuclear operations."
Barakah Unit 1 has already successfully completed a number of individual and combined system tests, including the 'cold hydrostatic test' and 'hot functional test', as part of the first phase of the Initial Testing Programme (ITP). The ITP aims to ensure that the unit’s systems operate in accordance with the highest industry standards and will continue to do so during the operation of the plant over the coming decades.
In parallel to the ITP being conducted at the Barakah Plant, Enec, Kepco, and Nawah are conducting a comprehensive review programme in preparation for operations to ensure that the people who will operate and maintain the plant also meet the highest standards of competence and readiness.
As per the UAE Nuclear Law, the construction and operation of nuclear energy plants are subject to regulation by FANR, the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator. Once Nawah staff have confirmed that the plant, its people and related programmes, processes and procedures are all ready, they will seek the approval of FANR to begin the loading of nuclear fuel assemblies and the start-up of Unit 1. Prior to granting such approval via the issuance of the Operating License for Units 1 and 2, FANR is carrying out detailed inspections and reviews of all aspects of the plant and the operating organisation.
In addition to FANR’s extensive review process, and in line with the commitment made by the UAE in 2008 to adhere to the highest standards of safety and operational transparency, Unit 1 and its operating team are undergoing a number of assessments by independent international nuclear energy experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). These all-inclusive assessments will review both the physical infrastructure of the reactor as well as the competency and expertise of the reactor’s operating team and administrative staff.
In parallel to the above activities, Enec also continues to manage the construction of Barakah Units 2, 3 and 4, which are benefitting from the experience and lessons learned during the construction of Unit 1 and which are likely to achieve even more impressive construction schedules.
The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is the largest nuclear energy new build project in the world, with four APR-1400 units under simultaneous construction. Construction of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant began in 2012 and has progressed steadily ever since. Construction of Units 2, 3 and 4 are 92 percent, 81 percent, and 66 percent complete respectively.
The construction of the Barakah plant as a whole is now 86 percent complete. Once the four reactors are online, the facility will deliver clean, efficient and reliable electricity to the UAE grid for decades to come, providing around 25 percent of the country’s electricity requirements and saving up to 21 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.