Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) said last week, following the successful loading of fuel assemblies into the reactor, Barakah 1 is in an advanced stage of start-up.
Tests are continuing at units 2, 3 and 4 following the completion of all construction work.
Speaking to Fred Kempe, CEO of the Atlantic Council think-tank, in an online discussion of the impacts of Covid-19 on global energy demand Enec CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi said:
"Unit 1 will reach criticality very soon, and the Covid-19 pandemic has not derailed our plans. We have 700 employees working on the project to meet the timeline."
"The Barakah plant, the Arab World’s first peaceful nuclear energy facility located in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi, will change the way the UAE powers its growth," noted Al Hammadi.
"Producing 5.6 gigawatts of electricity while preventing the release of more than 21 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, the Barakah Plant will power the UAE with clean, safe and reliable baseload electricity," he stated. "It is also providing countless high-value jobs through the establishment of a sustainable local nuclear energy industry and supply chain.
Al Hammadi described Covid-19 as "the deepest financial and global economic shock" to hit the world in the past 100 years and a "multifaceted" crisis.
He said ENEC instigated measures including stopping all non-essential work, demobilising non-critical resources, locking down the Barakah site and taking other measures to keep its workers safe early on in the pandemic. To date, there have been no positive cases of coronavirus at the construction site.
Four Korean-designed APR-1000 reactors are under construction at Barakah, in Abu Dhabi. Work began on unit 1 in 2012, with units 2-4 following over the next three years.
Barakah 1 was completed in 2018. The UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) issued a 60-year operating licence to Enec subsidiary Nawah in February 2020. Fuel loading was completed in early March.