The startup of the United Arab Emirates' $24.4bn Barakah nuclear plant has been delayed again, with unit 1 now expected to start operations between the end of 2019 and early 2020, the plant’s operator, Nawah Energy Company, said 26 May.

Nawah said it has completed a comprehensive operational readiness review to generate an updated startup schedule for the reactor. “The results of Nawah’s review forecast that the loading of nuclear fuel assemblies required to commence nuclear operations at Barakah Unit 1 will occur between the end of 2019 and early 2020,”  Nawah said in a statement. “The resulting projection for the startup of Unit 1 operations reflects the time required for the plant’s nuclear operators to complete operational readiness activities and to obtain necessary regulatory approvals,” it added.

Commenting on the development, Nawah CEO Mark Reddemann said: "Our review relied on global nuclear standards to analyse the remaining work required for nuclear operations, and we are confident that this new projection for fuel loading gives Nawah a nuclear-centric and conservative schedule to deliver nuclear operations in alignment with the highest standards of safety and quality."

Reddemann added that "By achieving high standards in Unit 1, Nawah is setting a robust precedent for the subsequent operation of Units 2, 3, and 4, as well as for the regional industry."

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), on behalf of Nawah, submitted the Operating Licence Application for units 1 and 2  in 2015.

In March, an official ceremony marked the end of the construction phase at Barakah 1, but no operation date was confirmed. The 1400MWe APR-1400 reactor unit officially started construction in July 2012, and was originally expected to start operation in 2017. However, in May 2017, commercial operation was postponed from 2017 to 2018, as the plant had not received an operating licence from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). Last March FANR  deferred  operation until 2019 citing concerns about the expertise of the staff.
The four reactors under construction at Barakah were due to come online by 2020. Once completed, the nuclear plant is expected to supply up to 25 per cent of the UAE's electricity, saving up to 12m tonnes of carbon emissions a year, once fully operational.

Photo: The Barakah nuclear plant pictured in December 2017 (Credit: ENEC)