UAE awards nuclear fuel contracts

15 August 2012

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) has awarded a series of contracts related to the supply of fuel for the United Arab Emirates' (UAE's) first nuclear power plant. The contracts will ensure sufficient fuel for the first 15 years of operation of the Barakah plant.

UAE nuclear power plant (Enec)
The contracts will ensure a supply of fuel for the Barakah plant (Image: Enec)

Following the launch of a nuclear fuel procurement competition in July 2011, Enec has now awarded six contracts related to the supply of natural uranium concentrates, conversion and enrichment services, and the purchase of enriched uranium product. The company estimates the contracts are worth some $3 billion and will enable the Barakah plant to generate up to 450 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity over a 15-year period starting in 2017, when the first of four units at the plant is scheduled to begin operating.

Under the contracts, both France's Areva and Russia's Techsnabexport (Tenex) have been contracted to provide services across the front-end of the fuel cycle, including the supply of uranium concentrates, as well as conversion and enrichment services. Meanwhile, Canada-based Uranium One and UK-based Rio Tinto will also supply natural uranium, the USA's Converdyn will provide conversion services and UK-headquartered Urenco will provide enrichment services.

The enriched uranium will be supplied to Kepco Nuclear Fuels - part of Enec's prime contractor consortium, led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) - which will manufacture the fuel assemblies for use in the Barakah plant.

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. The first concrete for the initial unit was poured in mid-July.

Legislation adopted in October 2009, prohibits "the development, construction or operation of uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing facilities within the borders of the UAE." The country has promised not to enrich and reprocess uranium or other fuel and to instead obtain nuclear fuel from reliable international suppliers, in line with the cooperation agreement signed with the USA.

In addition to the USA, the UAE has nuclear cooperation agreements in place with the UK, South Korea and France, plus a memorandum of understanding with Japan. In late-July, the country also signed a cooperation agreement with Australia, enabling the supply of Australian uranium to fuel its forthcoming nuclear power reactor fleet. Both Rio Tinto and Uranium One have uranium assets in Australia.

Enec CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi commented, "The completion of the fuel supply strategy is a key achievement in Enec's program and a clear example of how the UAE continues to set the gold standard for implementing a peaceful nuclear energy program. These contracts will provide Enec with long-term security of supply, high quality fuel and favourable pricing and commercial terms."

Enec noted that it "expects to return to the market at various times to take advantage of favourable market conditions and to strengthen its security of supply position."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News