Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, the world’s first commercial atomic-energy plant, is a step closer to being switched on.
Construction of the Barakah Unit 1 reactor has been completed and Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation’s handover of operations at the plant to Nawah Energy Company is “almost complete,” Christer Viktorsson, the UAE’s top nuclear regulator, said.
Additional tests and adjustments need to be done before the government will allow the plant to operate, he said.
“I have to make sure that everything is tip-top before I give the operating license,” said Mr Viktorsson, director-general of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.
“They have 60 or 80 years to operate, which is the typical lifetime of a nuclear reactor. So, why rush for two months or three months or a year?”
The UAE plans to bring a total of four nuclear plants into operation by 2021, Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy, said in September. The reactors are estimated to cost $25 billion and produce a combined 5,600 megawatts of power, a vital component in the country’s programme to diversify its energy supply and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
The UAE’s first Barakah reactor plans to begin loading fuel next month, South Korea’s energy ministry said in March. South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended a ceremony to celebrate the facility’s completion that same month.
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Mr Viktorsson said the plant can’t load fuel until his agency issues an operating license, without specifying when the regulator was likely to do so. “Not in the next couple of weeks, that’s for sure,” he said.
The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant will have four reactors, or units, when fully operational. Connecting Units Three and Four to the grid will allow the next stage of testing and the completion of auxiliary buildings on the site, which is in the Western Region near Ruwais.
Once fully operational, the Barakah power plant is expected to produce a quarter of the UAE’s energy as well as save 21 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
Nawah Energy, a joint venture between Enec and Korea Electric, was established to operate the UAE’s four nuclear plants.
The UAE’s nuclear safety culture is improving day by day, Mr Viktorsson said. “They realise that we cannot have a nuclear accident,” he said. “Even a small accident is too much.”