ENEC CEO: Barakah plant to start up 'very soon'

07 May 2020

The first unit at the Barakah nuclear power plant will reach first criticality "within a month or so", Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi said yesterday. He was speaking to Fred Kempe, CEO of the US-based Atlantic Council think-tank, in an online discussion of the impacts of COVID-19 on global energy demand.

Al Hammadi speaking online to the Atlantic Council (Image: Atlantic Council)

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. 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, he said. To date, there have been no positive cases of coronavirus at the construction site, he added.

"We are planning to go critical very soon - in a month or so - and we're targeting to get the units operational before year's end," Al Hammadi said. Up to now there have been no supply chain challenges, he said, adding: "When you build four units, you have three redundancies, so if we need to, we have three other units we can cannibalise."

Construction of the first of four Korean-designed APR-1000 reactors began at Barakah, which is near Ruwais in Abu Dhabi, in 2012, with units 2-4 following over the next three years. Construction of unit 1 was completed in 2018, and the UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation issued a 60-year operating licence to ENEC subsidiary Nawah in February of this year. Fuel loading was completed in early March.

Once all four Barakah units are online, the plant is expected to generate about a quarter of the UAE's energy needs.

While businesses and factories around the world have been closed in response to the pandemic, billions of people are staying at home and consuming electricity, Al Hammadi said. "The good news is that electricity is the backbone for the world to continue working," he said. Trends towards a higher use of computing - driving up energy demand at data centres as hundreds of millions of people remain in lockdown - are likely to continue beyond the current situation, he said.

"Long story short, the electricity sector is resilient, and it's designed in a way to continually provide power," Al Hammadi said. "We have the option to switch between renewables, nuclear, and fossil fuel because we have all of them in our basket - and we'll be using them for decades to come.

"From our perspective, we've done our energy plans for the next fifteen or twenty years. When you invest in the electricity sector, you invest for decades-plus. I do foresee some shift maybe globally, but for the UAE, we are very focused on creating clean and secure sources of electricity, and we will bear the fruit of that investment very soon."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News