UAE's first nuclear plant to begin major testing on third reactor

Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant connects third reactor to the country’s electricity grid

The plant is set to begin operation late this year or early next year. Courtesy Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation 
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The opening of the UAE’s first nuclear power plant has moved a step closer.

Operators on Tuesday said the plant’s third nuclear reactor – unit three – had been connected to the country’s electricity grid.

The significant development allows for major tests of the reactor to take place and, over the next few months, at least 200 assessments will be carried out on the reactor’s systems. Unit three will also undergo what is known as “hot functional testing” which assesses its cooling and safety systems before nuclear fuel is added.

“I am proud of the continued progress being made at unit three of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant,” said Mohamed Al Hammadi, chief executive of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation.

“We have maintained our track record of safety and efficiency with the successful energisation [the formal term for connection to the grid] of the unit’s transformers and we continue to establish Barakah as the benchmark for new nuclear construction projects worldwide.”

Construction of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Al Dhafra is now about 93 per cent complete and, when all four reactors are working, it will provide close to 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity needs.

Operators did not reveal an opening date for the plant. Construction of the $25 billion (Dh91bn) facility began in 2011, with electricity generation set for 2017.

But it is now thought the reactors will not start producing electricity until late this year or early next.

To begin generating power, the reactors must be loaded with uranium pellets and these generate heat through a controlled nuclear reaction. This heat is transferred to water which creates steam to drive the turbines.

Barakah is being built in co-operation with the Korea Electric Power Corporation and to begin working, it must get a licence from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation. The authority regulates the industry according to international standards.

The Barakah plant’s workforce is about 60 per cent Emirati, a quarter of whom are women. This figure is believed to be the highest for any nuclear power company in the world.