The UAE’s nuclear power plant in Barakah has received fuel assemblies required to generate electricity from its first unit, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced on Saturday.
The fuel assemblies have been stored as the facility awaits final approval from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) for the operating licence for Units 1 and 2, a statement said.
The parts were produced by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) NF to the exacting standards of the APR-1400 reactor and were transported in “highly protected rigid structures”, ENEC said.
The transportation did not require extraordinary measures of radiation protection, as new fuel assemblies only emit natural safe levels of radiation, it added.
In accordance to FANR regulations, all fuel assemblies arriving at the Barakah plant had to be closely inspected by fuel experts at ENEC and Nawah (a joint venture between ENEC and KEPCO established to operate the Barakah plant).
The inspections were done to ensure the structural integrity of each fuel assembly and to obtain confirmation and independent verification of the quality of the assemblies.
“All the received fuel assemblies have cleared quality inspections at site and that they are ready to be used to produce electricity for the nation, pending regulatory approval,” said Mohamed Abdalla Chookah, executive director for Fuel Procurement and Analysis.
“New fuel assemblies, meaning fuel assemblies that have not yet completed a fuel cycle inside a reactor, contain fresh fuel pellets which emit natural amounts of radiation that are well below international safe limits. ENEC’s number one priority is the safety of the community, the environment, its staff and its technology and we are glad to report that the fuel assemblies are securely stored within the Barakah plant.”
ENEC awarded contracts to several international fuel suppliers to provide a series of nuclear fuel services to cover the requirements for Barakah Units 1 to 4 for a period of 15 years, starting in 2017.
The Barakah plant was supposed to begin operations in 2017, however, earlier this year, ENEC announced that the launch had been pushed back to 2018.
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 at the time.
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 began in 2012 and it is now more than 95 per cent complete. All four units are now 80 per cent complete.
Once the four reactors are online, the facility will deliver up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity needs.