Barakah 1Unit 1 of the United Arab Emirates $20bn Barakah nuclear plant will now come online in late 2019 or early 2020, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) said on 3 July. Enec said construction of the first of four reactors at the plant had been completed ready for "operation by the end of 2019 (or) early 2020”,  the state-run WAM news agency reported. 

The first reactor had been due to come online in 2017, but the launch was initially delayed until 2018 to make time for regulatory approvals and complete safety checks. No reason was given for the latest postponement. Enec said unit 2 was 93% complete, unit 3 was 83% complete and unit 4 72% complete. The station is being built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation.

The announcement followed a review of the construction and commissioning oversight for Barakah by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). Recommendations made by the International Advisory Group or IAG on the "oversight of the construction and commissioning" of the Barakah were discussed, the Emirates News Agency said in a statement. FANR's board discussed what steps had to made to transition the under-construction energy plant to full operational readiness in 2020. The status of more than 20 memorandums of understanding between the nuclear plant and various government organisations, foreign nuclear safety regulators, and research bodies was also discussed along with the number of site inspections expected at Barakah this year.

The management meeting took place days after a list of recommendations from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was passed to Barakah executives. An  IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) team of experts on 31 June concluded an eight-day mission to review the UAE’s infrastructure development for its nuclear power programme. The review was carried out at the invitation of the UAE Government.
The INIR mission was the first the IAEA had conducted for a country in the final phase of the IAEA’s Milestones Approach, which provides detailed guidance for developing the infrastructure needed for a nuclear power programme. “This INIR phase 3 mission is the first of its kind, marking an important milestone for both the UAE and the IAEA,” said team leader Milko Kovachev, head of the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section. “The UAE is well-focused in its preparations for the operation of the first unit of the nuclear power plant, although some work remains to be done.”
The team comprised international experts from Slovakia, South Africa, the UK as well as five Agency staff. It reviewed the status of 19 nuclear infrastructure issues using an IAEA document. 

The INIR team made recommendations and suggestions, highlighting areas where further actions would benefit the UAE, including the need for the operating organisation to finalise the arrangements required to reach operational readiness; the need for the UAE to approve and implement all the appropriate arrangements for radioactive waste management; and the implementation of arrangements required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the nuclear power programme. The team identified good practices in the areas of management and human resource development, nuclear safety, safeguards and safety security interface.

Photo: Unit 1 of UAE's Barakah nuclear plant (Credit: ENEC)