The UAE’s Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) – which is developing the country’s first nuclear power plant – has delayed the launch of its first nuclear reactor since it yet to receive approval from regulators.
The start of nuclear operations for Unit 1 has been pushed back from 2017 to 2018, ENEC said in a statement.
The move will ensure “sufficient time for international assessments and adherence to nuclear industry safety standards, as well as a reinforcement of operational proficiency for plant personnel,” the company said.
Initial construction activities for Unit 1 of the $20bn Barakah nuclear energy plant have already been completed by a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).
ENEC also confirmed that it completed the Hot Functional Test (HFT) for Unit 1 at the end of 2016. The HFT is one of the major testing requirements under the construction licence for Units 1 and 2, which was granted by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) in 2012.
All the plant systems have now been turned over to Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) – a subsidiary of KEPCO – for testing and commissioning.
After KHNP completes its commissioning activities, Nawah – a joint venture between ENEC and KEPCO established to operate the Barakah plant, will assume operational responsibilities for Unit 1.
“However, as per UAE regulatory law, the construction, start-up and operations of nuclear energy plants are subject to regulations issued by the FANR, and the loading of fuel and actual operation of Unit 1 will require the approval of FANR and the issuance of an operating licence,” the statement said.
The operating licence application was submitted by ENEC to FANR in March 2015.
Senior nuclear experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) will also conduct a series of voluntary, but independent assessments of the operating infrastructure and the proficiency of the operations personnel at Unit 1.
“Only after the successful conclusion of these legally-mandated and voluntary reviews, and upon FANR approval of the operating licence for Unit 1, will Nawah proceed with Unit 1 fuel load and plant start-up,” ENEC said.
“Nawah is currently working with the IAEA and WANO on the approach and timetable for their operational readiness assessments at Barakah later this year,” said Mohammed Sahoo AlSuwaidi, acting CEO of Nawah.
“Following the receipt of all necessary approvals and the initiation of plant start-up, Unit 1 power levels will be increased in stages and the first megawatts of electricity from peaceful nuclear energy will be delivered to the UAE grid. Testing, of both safety and operating systems, will be conducted at each stage of this process over a period of several months,” he added.
ENEC’s board has approved the delay of the start of the project following “a series of assessments by ENEC, Nawah and international experts, as well as lessons learned from Shin Kori Unit 3 in South Korea, the reference plant for Barakah”, the statement said.
“Since 2009, ENEC has pursued the highest standards of nuclear quality, safety and operational transparency,” added Mohamed Al Hammadi, CEO of ENEC.
The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is the largest single nuclear energy new build project in the world, with four units under simultaneous construction. Construction of Unit 1 commenced in 2012 and at full operational capacity, the four units will deliver up to 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity needs from carbon-free nuclear energy.
The project as a whole is now 79 perc ent complete, with Unit 1 being 95 per cent complete.