IAEA finds operational safety enhanced at UAE plant

12 September 2022

The operator of the UAE's Barakah nuclear power plant has strengthened operational safety by fully addressing the findings of an initial safety review mission five years ago, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) review has concluded.

The four units at the Barakah plant (Image: ENEC)

A five-member team comprising experts from Finland, Hungary and the UK, as well as two IAEA officials, completed a five-day Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission to Barakah on 9 September. The mission, which focused on unit 1 of the plant, was carried out at the request of the UAE government and aimed to evaluate progress in addressing the findings of the IAEA's Pre-OSART mission that took place in 2017, three years prior to the start of operations in 2020.

OSART missions aim to improve operational safety by objectively assessing safety performance using the IAEA's Safety Standards and proposing recommendations for improvement where appropriate. Follow up missions are standard components of the OSART programme and are typically conducted within two years of the initial mission.

The mission team concluded that all findings from the 2017 review were resolved including: the plant has enhanced the effectiveness of its management in-field programme; the plant has improved its operating experience programme; and the plant has established a comprehensive accident management programme and demonstrated the capability of the mobile equipment under simulated severe accident conditions.

"The plant has completed corrective actions to address all of the findings of the mission in 2017. We are pleased to observe significant improvement," said Kari Maekelae, mission team leader and Senior Safety Officer at the IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. "The team encourages the plant to continue to apply the relevant corrective actions to unit 4, which is currently under construction."

In order to ensure continuous enhancements also in the future, the team encouraged the Barakah plant to continue to use the IAEA's nuclear safety review services.

The team provided a draft report of the mission to the plant management, which will have the opportunity to make factual comments. These comments will be reviewed by the IAEA and the final report will be submitted to the UAE government within three months.

The Barakah plant, owned by Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), is located in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi Emirate in the UAE, 280 km west of Abu Dhabi city. Two 1400 MWe pressurised water reactors have been operational since 2020 and 2021. The third unit is due to start up in coming months, with all four units due online by 2025. The operator is Nawah Energy Company, a joint venture between ENEC and Korea Electric Power Company, which is also the prime contractor for the plant.

"It has been a pleasure to host the IAEA at Barakah, as part of our commitment to transparent operations, and in line with all national regulations and international standards," said ENEC CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi. "We thoroughly analysed the findings of the IAEA's Pre-OSART Mission in 2017 and developed a comprehensive action plan to address these findings in advance of the start of operations back in 2020.

"We are pleased that the IAEA OSART team has identified that all of the findings identified back in 2017 have been successfully resolved, moving our operational safety performance to a new level, which we will further build on as part of our commitment to continuous improvement in nuclear safety. We will continue to welcome missions from the IAEA, which offers significant international expertise and experience to Barakah."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News