The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has announced that its subsidiary Nawah Energy has successfully launched Unit 1 of the Barakah nuclear plant in Abu Dhabi.

ENEC highlighted that since receipt of the operating license from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulations (FANR) in February 2020, and the completion of fuel assembly loading in March 2020, there has been steady progress.

Nawah, the joint venture nuclear operations and maintenance subsidiary of ENEC and the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), has been safely progressing through a comprehensive testing programme, prior to successfully completing the start-up of the first nuclear energy reactor of the Barakah plant.

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The start-up of Unit 1 marks the first time that the reactor safely produces heat, which is used to create steam, turning a turbine to generate electricity.

After several weeks and conducting numerous safety tests, Unit 1 will be ready to connect to the UAE’s electricity grid, delivering the first megawatts of clean electricity to the homes and businesses in the region.

Testing has been undertaken with the oversight of the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator, FANR, and follows the World Association of Nuclear Operator’s (WANO) completion of a Pre Start-up Review (PSUR) in January 2020, prior to receipt of the operating license, which ensures Unit 1 is aligned with international best practice in the nuclear energy industry.

Control room of the Barakah nuclear energy plant.

Commenting on the milestone, CEO of ENEC Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, said: “Today is a truly historic moment for the UAE. It is the culmination of more than a decade of vision, strategic planning and robust program management.

“Despite the recent global challenges, our team has demonstrated outstanding resilience and commitment to the safe delivery of Unit 1. We are now another step closer to achieving our goal of supplying up to a quarter of our Nation’s electricity needs and powering its future growth with safe, reliable, and emissions-free electricity.”

Barakah nuclear energy plant

Al Hammadi continued: “Through the realisation of the vision of our leadership, the Barakah nuclear energy plant has become an engine of growth for the nation. It will deliver 25% of the UAE’s electricity with zero carbon emissions while also supporting economic diversification by creating thousands of high-value jobs through the establishment of a sustainable local nuclear energy industry and supply chain.”

Once the unit is connected to the grid, the nuclear operators will continue with a process of gradually raising the power levels, known as Power Ascension Testing (PAT).

Throughout, the systems of Unit 1 will be continuously monitored and tested as the unit proceeds towards full electricity production in line with all regulatory requirements and the highest international standards of safety, quality and security.

Once the process is completed, the plant will deliver baseload electricity at full capacity to power the UAE for decades to come.

Also commenting on this milestone in UAE nuclear energy operations, Eng. Ali Al Hammadi, Chief Executive Officer of Nawah, said: “The start-up of Unit 1 is a significant milestone for Nawah Energy Company as we fulfil our mandate to operate and maintain the plant in accordance with the highest international standards of safety and quality. The dedication of our people as well as our close collaboration with our Korean partners and cooperation with numerous international expert organizations has enabled this accomplishment.

“This reflects our commitment to upholding the highest safety, quality and operational transparency standards throughout the entire commissioning and start-up process by leveraging the expertise of the global nuclear industry.”

When fully operational, the plant will produce 5.6GW of electricity while preventing the release of more than 21 million tons of carbon emissions every year, equivalent to the removal of 3.2 million cars from the UAE’s roads annually.

The UAE is the first Arab country to open a nuclear power plant. Barakah was originally scheduled to open in 2017, but got delayed multiple times. Unit 1 is the first of four reactors. By adding nuclear power to the energy mix, the UAE wants to decrease its reliance on oil.

This story was first published on ESI-Africa.com.