UAE enhances nuclear emergency preparedness

18 September 2019

Most of the recommendations made by a mission in 2015 have been addressed, according to a follow-up mission to the United Arab Emirates by an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) emergency preparedness review service team.

The four units at the Barakah plant, pictured in December 2017 (Image: ENEC)

The team completed a five-day follow-up mission on 12 September to review the emergency preparedness and response framework for nuclear and radiological emergencies in the UAE. The Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) was carried out at the request of the UAE government.

The mission focused on assessing emergency preparedness and response arrangements in the country in light of recommendations made in an initial EPREV mission in 2015.

The UAE's nuclear emergency preparedness and response is coordinated by the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, the Ministry of Interior, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC).

The seven-member team - including experts from Morocco, the Netherlands, Portugal, the USA and the IAEA - met with counterparts in Abu Dhabi. They also visited the Barakah nuclear power plant and emergency facilities and a hospital in the town of Ruwais, about 50km east of the plant.

The mission concluded that most of the recommendations given by the 2015 mission had been addressed and closed.

"The UAE has followed up on the recommendations from the initial EPREV mission and made significant improvements for preparedness and response to nuclear and radiological emergencies," said team leader David Nodwell, former director of emergency management for Ontario, Canada. "This follow-up mission will help them fine tune procedures as the country prepares to switch on its first nuclear power plant."

The EPREV team identified several strengths in the UAE's emergency preparedness and response framework, including a strong commitment to nuclear preparedness within all the organisations involved. This, it said, was reflected in the number of training activities, drills and exercises conducted and in the incorporation of lessons learned into revised plans. The team also said the UAE had created a joint field team to efficiently conduct environmental, food and individual monitoring and assessment during a nuclear emergency.

The mission team made a number of recommendations for the UAE to further strengthen its emergency preparedness and response. These include that the government should finalise the draft Protection Strategy for Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies and complete efforts to standardise guidelines for terminating a nuclear emergency.

"The cooperation with the IAEA through the EPREV missions has been instrumental in supporting the UAE's efforts to build its emergency preparedness and response system," said FANR Director General Christer Viktorsson.

EPREV missions are one of several peer review missions offered by the IAEA to strengthen nuclear safety in IAEA member states, focusing on the arrangements and capabilities to prepare for and respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies based on the IAEA safety standards in nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response.

Four Korean-designed APR-1400 units are being built for ENEC at Barakah, in the Dhafrah region of Abu Dhabi, by a consortium led by the Korean Electric Power Company. Construction began on the first unit in July 2012, unit 2 in May 2013, unit 3 in September 2014 and unit 4 in September 2015. Construction of Barakah 1 was completed in 2018 and the unit is now undergoing commissioning and testing prior to receipt of an operating licence, which is needed before fuel loading can begin. Overall construction of the four Barakah units is now over 93% complete.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News