The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) and the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) have awarded contracts worth $2.5bn to 1100 local companies over the last five years for the construction of the Barakah nuclear plant in western Abu Dhabi.

Enec, the plant owner and future operator, said the contracts would help local companies upgrade their processes and obtain key certification to become nuclear-approved suppliers. The companies involved include Emirates Steel, National Cement, Dubai Cable Company, National Marine Dredging Company, Western Bainoona Group, and Hilalco.

The Barakah nuclear plant has three Korean-design APR-1400 units under construction and one more planned. Construction of units 1 to 4 collectively is now more than 48% complete. All four units will have a combined generating capacity of around 5600MWe.

Unit 1 is more than 74% complete, according to Enec. It is expected to enter commercial operation in 2017, with additional units scheduled to follow at 12 monthly intervals until Barakah 4 starts commercial operation in 2020, subject to regulatory and licensing approvals.

Enec CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi said an important factor in the UAE’s decision to launch a nuclear energy programme was to develop a new industrial sector to support economic growth and diversification.

"The nuclear energy industry has some of the most stringent quality and technical standards in the world. Therefore, Enec’s dedicated industrial development team works alongside UAE companies to raise their standards to meet the unique requirements of the nuclear industry, allowing Emirati companies to not only contribute to the success of the Enec programme but to also gain a competitive advantage in providing nuclear-quality services and materials to the world," he said.

In July, a second 20t full-scope training simulator was installed at the Barakah plant’s simulator training centre. Both simulators replicate the main control room of Barakah 1. Enec said the first simulator, delivered in April 2014, has been upgraded. The upgrade "consists of custom-designed modelling data applied to both simulators to make the technology more specific to the unique environment of Barakah… allowing the devices to mimic the real conditions and future scenarios of the UAE plants," Enec said. The simulators were developed jointly with Kepco.