Meet the women engineers behind the UAE's Barakah nuclear power plant
Hend AL Zeyoudi in the Unit 1 main control room .

It was around 5am on August 19, 2020, and Hend Al Zeyoudi, a licensed reactor operator at Nawah Energy Company, was on the move.

Carefully navigating between the main control room and turbine generator building of Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, she was focused on ensuring that the plant’s generator was safely and securely integrated and synchronized with the requirements of the UAE’s national electricity transmission grid.

For energy graduate Al Zeyoudi, contributing to both the start-up and grid synchronization of Unit 1 were defining moments in her early career at Nawah, the joint venture subsidiary of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) that’s responsible operating and maintaining Barakah’s four units.

Latest nuclear news

After more than seven years’ study, 2000 hours of hands-on training at an operational nuclear plant, and more than 800 hours training in a state-of-the-art simulator, the generation of the first megawatts at Barakah was a culmination of an incredible journey for Al Zeyoudi and her colleagues, including Laila Al Dhaheri, Saif Al Ketbi, and Esmaeel Al Yousefi.

Al Zeyoudi said: “I am immensely proud to have played a role in the successful start-up and grid connection of Unit 1. It was a truly historic moment, and a story that I will be telling my friends and family about for decades to come.”

Fast-forward to this year and Al Zeyoudi and her colleagues are again celebrating as Unit 1 entered commercial operation (read full story here).

Reactor engineer Laila Al Dhaheri said: “In just over a decade we have accomplished an incredible amount in the development of Barakah, but of equal importance to me is how we have achieved it.

Laila Al Dhaher, second right, inside the main control room of Barakah Unit 1.

“I am proud to be one of the first female employees within Nawah’s operations team. Together we are forging a path for future generations of women within the nuclear energy industry both here in the UAE as well as internationally.”

Senior reactor operator Saif Al Ketbi said Barakah would provide “countless opportunities for young Emirati professionals like myself to become experts within one of the most technologically advanced industries in the world”.

Fellow senior reactor operator Esmaeel Al Yousefi addedthat she was “looking forward to continuing to contribute to the success of the Barakah plant”.

Comprised of four APR1400 nuclear reactors, the construction of Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant began in 2012 and was completed in 2018. Unit 2 is also complete and Units 3 and 4 close to completion.

Read our in-depth nuclear features
Reactors worth their salt

Fuelling nuclear innovation in the UK
Nuclear fusion: Start-ups enter race for the sun

Previous articleMitsubishi Power to supply turbines for 1,500MW CCGT Uzbek project
Next articleUK expands solar capacity to 14 GW in 2021 first quarter
Kelvin Ross is Editor-in-Chief of Enlit Europe and Power Engineering International. A journalist for more than 30 years, he has worked on regional, national and international newspapers, as well as trade magazines serving sectors including insurance, shipping, health and financial markets. He has covered the energy sector for more than 10 years. He helped establish Energy Live News in the UK before joining PEi and he has been ranked among the top 100 global influencers on Twitter for 'renewable energy' and 'smart grid' topics.