The UAE has officially become a peaceful nuclear energy operating nation, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has announced following the successful completion of fuel assembly loading into Unit 1.
The UAE has also become the first Arab country to achieve this status, joining a limited group of countries worldwide that have successfully developed the intellectual and infrastructural capacity to use nuclear energy to generate safe, clean, and reliable baseload electricity, UAE news agency WAM reported.
The milestone was achieved this week, following the safe and quality-driven completion of the process to load fuel assemblies into the Unit 1 reactor, which commenced after the receipt of the Operating License from the UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), in February.
“Our teams have been training over the years to safely progress towards providing the UAE with clean, reliable and abundant electricity to power our economic and societal growth,” Mohamed Al Hammadi, ENEC Chief Executive Officer, said, quoted by WAM.
“Today, we are very proud as the UAE joins a limited group of nations who have achieved the global standards necessary to become peaceful nuclear operating nations. We take this responsibility very seriously and our teams are safely and steadily transitioning through the sophisticated, highly-regulated process to advance Unit 1 towards full electrical generation capacity.”
The fuel load was led by a team of highly-trained and FANR-certified fuel operators, with over 90% participation of Emirati experts who were previously trained in the APR-1400 technology in South Korea. This team led the transfer and load of the 241 fuel assemblies into Unit 1 that concluded earlier this week.
“The fact that the loading of the fuel assemblies has been achieved by a team with over 90% experienced and certified Emiratis is an important reflection that nuclear energy is an engine of growth for the UAE,” continued Al Hammadi.
“Barakah is more than an energy plant, it brings prosperity and value to the UAE with new industrial and human capacity, it significantly improves the carbon footprint and energy security of the nation, and accelerates the decarburization of the power sector to contribute to alleviating global climate change.”
With the fuel load complete, the plant is now ready to begin the next stage and the UAE becomes the 33rd peaceful nuclear operating nation to achieve this status. The next step will be for the operating teams of Nawah, the operations and maintenance subsidiary of ENEC and the Korea Electric Power Corporation, KEPCO, to start operating the plant, in a process known as Power Ascension Testing, PAT, in which the systems of Unit 1 are safely and gradually tested to move into full electricity production.
As per the Prime Contract signed between ENEC and KEPCO, this process is led by KEPCO and takes the lessons learned of the APR-1400 Korean fleet, which currently operates two APR-1400 units in South Korea at full capacity.
The PAT process is conducted in line with all regulatory requirements and the highest international standards of safety, quality and security. Once the process is completed over the course of a number of months, the plant will begin delivering abundant baseload electricity to power the growth and prosperity of the UAE for decades to come.
Since its inception in 2009, ENEC has developed the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program in line with the principles set out in the 2008 UAE Policy on the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy, for achieving the highest standards of safety, security, transparency, and non-proliferation.
To date, over 255 inspections have been undertaken by FANR to ensure the Barakah plant and its people and processes meet the highest standards of nuclear quality and safety. These national reviews have been supported by over 40 assessments and peer reviews by the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and the World Association of Nuclear Operators, WANO, to ensure alignment with international best practice in the nuclear industry.