Unit 3 at Barakah Nuclear Plant Licensed, Set to Load Fuel

The third unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant (NPP), the first such facility in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Arab world, is ready to begin fuel loading, according to a statement issued by the country’s nuclear regulatory agency on June 19.

The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) on Sunday said it would send inspectors to oversee the process, in order “to ensure the fuel load and testing processes are completed according to requirements.”

The FANR on June 17 granted Nawah Energy Co., the operations and maintenance division of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., a license to operate Unit 3 for 60 years. Christer Viktorsson, FANR’s director-general, said the licensing of Unit 3 means the plant’s operators can being a commissioning period to prepare for commercial operation.

FANR in a news release said its decision to issue the operating license “is a culmination of efforts made by FANR since it received the Operating License Application from Nawah in 2017 for Units 3 and 4. FANR conducted the assessment of the application for the Unit 3, following the issuance of the licenses for the previous two units  and adopted a systematic review process that included a thorough assessment of the application documentation, conducting robust regulatory oversight and inspections.”

Four APR-1400 Reactors

Barakah when complete will feature four Korean-built APR-1400 reactors. The nuclear power plant, located in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, is the first NPP in the Arab world. The plant’s first unit began commercial operation in April 2021 after reaching 100% capacity in December 2020. Unit 2, which was connected to the power grid in September 2021, began commercial operation in March of this year. Unit 3 is expected to come online early next year. FANR has said the agency expects to start considering the operating license application for the Unit 4 at some point in the last quarter of this year. Officials on Sunday said construction of Unit 4 is 92% complete.

Barakah will have total generation capacity of 5,600 MW once all four units are online, an amount equivalent to about 25% of the UAE’s total peak electricity demand. Barakah is being built by Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO). KEPCO earlier this month brought another APR-1400 reactor online at the Shin Hanul plant in South Korea.

Barakah was chosen as a POWER Top Plant last year. The UAE, long known for its production of oil and natural gas, is developing nuclear power as a way to reduce the country’s carbon footprint after government officials committed to a net-zero emissions target by 2050. The UAE is the first country in the Middle East to make such a net-zero pledge.

“This is another historic moment for the UAE, being the first Arab country in the region to operate a nuclear power plant and culminating efforts of 14 years in building such a program,” said His Excellency Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Management of FANR. “This milestone was achieved due to the UAE’s vision and its leadership to build a peaceful nuclear energy program to cater for the future needs of energy in the country.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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