UAE nuclear plant operator not ready to get licence

The UAE’s energy minister said in September that the first reactor would definitely be operational in 2018

The company that will run the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first nuclear reactor, due to start up this year, is not ready to get its operating licence yet, the country’s regulator said.

UAE is building four nuclear reactors in what is one of the world’s largest nuclear newbuild projects and will be the first nuclear reactor in the Gulf, but last year the startup of the first reactor was delayed by a year to 2018 because the operating company was not ready.

Local company Nawah, which is a joint venture between Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) – which is building the four APR-1400 reactors – and Emirates Nuclear Energy Company (ENEC), will operate the four reactors.

After ENEC said in May 2017 that the startup of the first reactor would be delayed by a year because Nawah was not ready to get a licence, the UAE’s energy minister said in September that the reactor would definitely be operational in 2018.

Read: UAE delays launch of first nuclear power reactor

But Christer Viktorsson, director-general of UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), told reporters on Tuesday that while the reactor was almost technically ready, the regulator could not yet issue an operating licence to Nawah and could not say when the firm would get its licence.

“It is hard to say when they (Nawah) will be ready,” Viktorsson said, when asked whether the licence would be issued this year.

“It is a very complex process. The organizational aspect is more important than the technical aspect,” he added.

Before FANR issues an operating licence, it not only needs to be confident that the reactor meets the highest technical and safety standards, but also that all Nawah’s staff have been properly trained in running the reactor under all circumstances and can handle any emergencies.

The four-reactor Barakah nuclear plant will have total capacity of 5,600MW and will supply about a quarter of the UAE’s electricity when it is fully operational in 2020.

In September, the UAE said the second and third reactors were 86 per cent and 76 per cent complete, while the fourth was 54 per cent done.