Fuel assembly under way at UAE's Barakah nuclear plant

Fuel loading process is a significant step towards the opening of the four-reactor plant

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The UAE's first nuclear power plant has moved a step closer to launching operations after fuel loading commenced.

Nawah Energy Company secured a 60-year licence to open up the first reactor of Abu Dhabi's Barakah plant on Sunday.

Now the operator has announced the fuel assembly process is under way, setting in motion the journey towards gradually firing up the four-reactor plant and developing a clean energy programme.

When fully operational, Barakah will boast a capacity of 5,600 megawatts and will be able provide up to 25 per cent of the UAE's energy needs.

“Our teams are trained, certified and ready to safely commence the testing and start-up processes for Unit 1 working in full adherence to Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) regulations, as well as industry best practices as set forth by the World Association of Nuclear Operators,” said Mark Reddemann, the chief executive officer of Nawah.

“Receiving the operating license for Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is a significant milestone for Nawah Energy Company as it becomes the latest operator to join the global nuclear community.”

Nawah will run a series of tests once the fuel assemblies are loaded, followed by the Power Ascension Testing stage, which will allow the unit to be synchronised to the grid.

Once these tests are successfully completed, Unit 1 will start its commercial operations.

As of this month, Unit 2 of the Barakah plant was 95 per cent ready to operate. Unit 3 was 92 per cent ready and Unit 4 83 per cent.

At present, the UAE gets 98 per cent of its energy from gas-fired power stations. It imports nearly a third of its gas through the Dolphin pipeline.

Nuclear plays a significant part in targets to reduce gas-fired power generation to 38 per cent by 2050, along with renewable energy from solar and some clean coal.