Operation of UAE nuclear plant postponed by a year

9 May 2017

Commercial operation of unit 1 at the Barakah NPP in the United Arab Emirates has been postponed from 2017 to 2018, as the plant has not yet received an operating licence from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

Fuel loading and operation will require the approval of FANR and an operating licence. Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) said on 5 May that the delay was to ensure sufficient time for international assessments and adherence to nuclear industry safety standards, and “as a reinforcement of operational proficiency for plant personnel”. FANR is reviewing the operating licence application, which was submitted by Enec in March 2015.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (Wano) will carry out a series of voluntary, but independent assessments of the robustness of the operating infrastructure and the proficiency of the operations personnel, Enec said. The delay follows a series of assessments and lessons learned from unit 3 at the Shin-Kori NPP in South Korea, which is the reference plant for Barakah. Initial construction activities have been completed at Barakah 1, which has been handed over to Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) for testing and commissioning in preparation for commercial operation. KHNP is a subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco).

Enec signed the prime contract with Kepco in 2009 for the construction of four APR-1400 units at Barakah. Following completion of commissioning activities at unit 1 by KHNP, Nawah Energy Company, a joint venture between Enec and Kepco established to operate Barakah, will assume operational responsibilities. Nawah was boosted in July last year by an $880m operating support services agreement whereby KHNP will supply 400 qualified staff until 2030.

Construction of Barakah 1 began in 2012. The overall project is now 79% complete. Unit 1 is 95% complete, including tests of safety systems. The remaining 5% of construction is the commissioning the reactor and final preparation of its 277 systems. This process starts with loading nuclear fuel.

The Barakah NPP is the largest single nuclear energy new build project in the world, with four APR-1400 units under simultaneous construction. Construction of unit 1 began in 2012 and at full operational capacity, the four units will deliver up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity.

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