UAE nuclear cleared for construction

18 July 2012

A licence for the construction of the United Arab Emirates' (UAE's) first nuclear power plant has been granted by the country's safety regulator, clearing the way for the full-scale construction of Barakah units 1 and 2 to start.

The decision to issue the construction licence to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) was made by the board of management of the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR) at a meeting yesterday and was officially announced today. Enec submitted its construction licence application for the Barakah units in December 2010. The issuance of the licence comes just days after the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) gave environmental approval for the project.

 Braka becomes Barakah

When the UAE announced its selection for the site of its first nuclear power plant in April 2010, it was referred to as the Braka site. However, over the past few months the site has been increasingly referred to as Barakah. With the issuance of the construction licence, the name is now confirmed as Barakah.
The Barakah site is in a very sparsely populated area 53 kilometres from Ruwais and very close to the border with Saudi Arabia. It is closer to Doha, the capital of Qatar, than to Abu Dhabi about 240 kilometres to the east. Dubai is another 150 kilometres along the coast.

Under the licence, Enec is authorized to import to the UAE equipment and technology exclusively for the construction of units 1 and 2 of the Barakah plant, Korean-design APR-1400 design.

During the construction phase, FANR will carry out inspections to verify that Enec conducts the activities in accordance with regulations and licence conditions. Enec must apply to FANR for a separate licence to actually operate the units.

FANR director general William Travers said, "Our comprehensive review of the construction licence application was carried out by more than 200 technical experts over a period of 18 months. The reviewers scrutinized submissions by Enec covering all required topics including the adequacy of the proposed site, the design of the facility, the safety analysis, management systems and quality assurance for construction, radiation safety measures, physical protection and safeguards. It was designed to ensure that all applicable technical and legal requirements were met."

Travers added, "Going forward, during the construction itself and during our review of any operating licence application, we will continue to be conscious of our responsibility that nuclear power in the UAE is used safely, securely and only for peaceful purposes."

Enec CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi commented, "We are now mobilizing our team to move ahead with the next phase of activity under our new licence, which starts with pouring the safety concrete for Barakah unit 1. This will mark another major achievement for Enec's program in our mission to deliver safe, clean, reliable and efficient nuclear energy to the UAE by 2017."

Preparatory groundwork for the Barakah plant is already underway. FANR and EAD issued a limited construction licence to Enec in July 2010 for this and the company was given permission to pour a thin layer of concrete at the bottom of the excavation to create a smooth, flat surface in readiness for the installation of the concrete basemat. The pouring of the basemat concrete, often referred to as 'first concrete', is generally recognised as the point at which a reactor can be classified as officially 'under construction' and cannot take place until a full construction licence is granted. Enec had previously said that it expects to pour first concrete at Barakah in November.

In a $20 billion deal announced in December 2009, Enec selected a Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) to build four APR-1400 reactors, the first of which is scheduled to come online in 2017.

FANR noted that, according to International Atomic Energy Agency data, the UAE is the first 'newcomer' country in 31 years to authorize the construction of its first nuclear power plant since China did so in 1981.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News