IAEA completes UAE nuclear infrastructure review

02 July 2018

A team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts has completed a review of the United Arab Emirates' overall nuclear energy infrastructure, the first ever Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) conducted for a country in the final phase of the Agency's Milestones approach to infrastructure development.

Kovachev, on the left, and FANR Deputy Director of Operations Raoul Awad (Image: FANR)

The nine-strong team of experts from Slovakia, South Africa and the UK plus five IAEA staff reviewed developments since an INIR mission conducted in 2011, during the second phase of the Milestones approach. The review was carried out at the invitation of UAE government, and the mission was hosted by the country's nuclear regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

As part of its review, the mission team met with UAE stakeholders including FANR, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, Nawah Energy Company (Nawah), National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority, and the Critical Infrastructure & Coastal Protection Authority. It evaluated aspects of the UAE's nuclear energy infrastructure including emergency planning and preparedness; human resource development; regulatory and legal frameworks; nuclear safety and radiation protection; physical and cyber security; nuclear fuel cycle and waste management; environmental protection; funding and procurement practices; and safeguards implemented as part of the UAE nuclear programme. The team also studied all previously conducted IAEA reviews.

"This INIR phase 3 mission is the first of its kind, marking an important milestone for both the UAE and the IAEA," team leader Milko Kovachev, head of the IAEA's Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section, said, adding that the mission was conducted in a "cooperative and open" atmosphere. "The UAE is well-focused in its preparations for the operation of the first unit of the nuclear power plant, although some work remains to be done," he said.

The mission team reviewed the status of 19 nuclear infrastructure issues set out under the IAEA's Milestones approach. It identified seven "good practices" that would benefit other countries developing nuclear power programmes, including the request by FANR to develop an Operational Readiness Report and extensive self-assessment carried out by nuclear operator Nawah. It also made ten recommendations and seven suggestions highlighting areas for further action, including the need for the operating organisation to finalise all necessary arrangements required to reach operational readiness; the need for the UAE to approve and implement all the appropriate arrangements for radioactive waste management; and the implementation of arrangements required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the nuclear power programme.

The UAE embarked on its nuclear programme in 2008, with construction beginning on the first of four Korean-designed APR-1400s at Barakah, in the Dhafrah region of Abu Dhabi, beginning in 2012. The completion of construction of unit 1 was formally celebrated in March at a ceremony attended by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The unit is now in the commissioning and testing phase. Preparations for nuclear operations, including operator training, must be completed and an operating licence issued by FANR before fuel loading can commence. Nawah said in May that this is expected to occur between the end of 2019 and early 2020.

The IAEA Milestones approach is a phased comprehensive method to assist countries that are considering or planning their first nuclear power plant to follow a "sound development process" for a nuclear power programme. It splits the activities necessary to establish the infrastructure for a nuclear power programme into three progressive phases of development, with the completion of each marked by a milestone: pre-project activities, leading to the milestone of being ready to make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear power programme; project development, in preparation to invite bids or negotiate a contract for the first nuclear power plant; and activities to implement the first nuclear power plant, culminating in readiness to commission and operate it. Each phase is evaluated by an INIR mission.

"The UAE is rapidly moving forward with the development of its peaceful nuclear energy sector. The successful conclusion of the Phase 3 INIR mission is a testament to the UAE's commitment to upholding the highest international standards of safety, security, and transparency as we approach the commissioning of the nation's first nuclear energy plant," Hamad Alkaabi, the country's permanent representative at the IAEA, said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News