The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) expects loading of the first nuclear fuel assemblies into unit 1 of the Barakah nuclear plant under construction in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to take place in the first quarter of 2020, local media reported.
Official sources at Enec told Al-Ittihad that Barakah 1 was undergoing operational tests and preparations, adding that it would “soon” obtain an operating licence from the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).
“The plant will then start loading nuclear fuel, begin generating power, and ramp-up to full commercial operation within several months,” the sources added. The officials added that the government organisation was “preparing to start tests on the plant’s second reactor”.
Despite speculation that the start-up of Barakah 1 will be delayed, a representative from ENEC told NEI there have been no changes to the schedule since 2018.
Four Korean-designed APR-1400 reactors are under construction at Barakah by a consortium led by the Korean Electric Power Company (Kepco), which won the tender for the $24.4bn project in 2009.
Construction of Barakah 1 began in 2012, and overall development of the four units is more than 93% complete. Once all four reactors are online, the power station will supply up to 25% of the UAE's electricity needs.
Barakah 1 was initially scheduled to load fuel in August 2017. Still, in May 2017 Enec said start-up would be postponed to 2018 to allow sufficient time for international assessments, and “as a reinforcement of operational proficiency for plant personnel”. This followed evaluations and lessons learned from Shin-Kori 3 in South Korea, which is the reference plant for Barakah.
Construction of Barakah 1 was completed in March 2018, and fuel loading was then set for May 2018.
In early 2018, based on an earlier safety evaluation report, Nawah Energy, a joint venture formed by Enec and Kepco to operate the nuclear plant, had completed a comprehensive operational readiness review.
However, FANR identified more than 400 adverse findings in the review and start-up was again postponed so that Nawah could rectify a range of technical, organisational and management issues. In May 2018, Enec said fuel loading had been delayed “to the end of 2019 and early 2020”.
Photo: Unit 1 of Barakah nuclear power plant (Credit: ENEC)