Construction under way at Barakah

19 July 2012

The first safety-related concrete has been poured for the foundation slab of the initial reactor at the Barakah site in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The move came just one day after the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) was issued with a construction licence for two units at the site.

Barakah 1 first concrete - 460 (Enec)
Concrete starts to flow at Barakah (Image: Enec)

Witnessed by Enec senior management and representatives from the company's prime contractor Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco), more than 1500 cubic metres of concrete was poured to form a portion of the foundation slab of the reactor containment building of Barakah unit 1. Enec expects to pour the first concrete for unit 2 in 2013.

Learning from Fukushima

While Enec notes that the Barakah site "is in an area with a very low probability of earthquakes" and that the area has been "tectonically inactive for nearly 100 million years," it has nonetheless taken on board lessons learned from the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Several design changes were proposed including enhancing the seismic resistance of the back-up diesel generator buildings and other auxiliary buildings. In addition, watertight doors are to be fitted to these building in case of severe flooding.

In the event of a station black-out, Enec has increased the availability of fuel for the emergency diesel generators to allow 24 hours of operation rather than just 8 hours. It has also extended the availability of back-up battery power from 8 hours to 16 hours.

In the event of a severe accident, the Barakah plant design will enable external water injection to the steam generators, reactor coolant system and the used fuel pools.

Following a review by FANR of Enec's proposed changes to the Barakah plant in response to the Fukushima accident, the regulator concluded that "sufficient information has been presented to conclude that structures, systems and components in combination with proposed safety improvements will provide substantial margin above the design basis capabilities to ensure that a multiple-unit plant can be brought to safe shutdown condition or cope with and mitigate the effects of severe but low probability events."

The Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR) issued the construction licence to Enec on 17 July, just days after the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) gave environmental approval. During the construction phase, FANR will carry out inspections to verify that Enec conducts the activities in accordance with regulations and licence conditions.

Preparatory site works have already been conducted for the two Barakah units by Enec under a limited construction licence. This has included excavation work for both reactors, as well as installing structural rebar and laying a thin concrete lining at the bottom of the excavation to create a smooth, flat surface in readiness for the installation of the safety-related concrete basemat. Construction of marine breakwaters and a wharf has already started, as has dredging for water intake and outfall channels.

Fabrication of the lining plate for containment building will take place on-site and its installation using heavy lift cranes is expected to start by the end of the year.

Enec CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi commented, "This has been a momentous week for the UAE's peaceful civil nuclear energy program. We have received approval from our regulators on the extensive safety analysis that led to the selection of our selected site, Barakah, and our chosen technology, the APR-1400, and today we commence the construction of the UAE's first nuclear power plant."

Enec must apply to FANR for a separate licence to actually operate the units. The company said that it plans to apply for an operating licence for Barakah unit 1 in 2015, two years before the reactor is scheduled to enter commercial operation.

In a $20 billion deal announced in December 2009, Enec selected a Korean consortium led by Kepco to build four APR-1400 reactors. All four units planned for Barakah, close to the border with Saudi Arabia, should be in operation by 2020.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News