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Braka on track

UME looks at the progress being made on the UAE's nuclear development

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The FANR Board of Management looks over the Braka site.
The FANR Board of Management looks over the Braka site.

Utilities Middle East looks at the progress being made on the UAE’s nuclear development in Abu Dhabi

In mid-July, the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) approved a licence for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) for the construction of two nuclear power reactor units at the proposed Braka site in Abu Dhabi.

The FANR Board of Management, chaired by H.E. Dr Ahmed Al Mazrouei, agreed at a meeting on July 17th to authorise the construction of two Korean-designed APR1400 reactors, each capable of producing 1,400 MW.

The licence applies to the first two of four planned units, and covers the construction of the reactors. Crucially, ENEC must apply separately for a licence to operate the reactors, with the first unit projected for completion in May 2017.

“When exactly ENEC applies for an operating licence is a question for them. But one thing is clear – this licence does not include operation. ENEC must apply to FANR, whenever they feel they are ready, for a separate operating licence. We will again need to conduct a thorough review of the final design and safety analysis of the facility. We will look into their management systems, training programmes, plans for start-up testing and normal operations, including periodic testing and maintenance, and plans for management of emergencies.

“The same way we have handled the Construction Licence Application, saying “We will take the time needed”, we will also take the time needed for approving any operation. This will depend on the quality of their application and our inspections,” FANR Director General Dr William Travers told Utilities Middle East.

The construction application had been the subject of a lengthy review, involving nearly 2,000 Requests for Additional Information, and has looked at issues including the design of the plant, the safety analysis and quality assurances for construction and radiation safety measures.

The licence application was subject to additional scrutiny following the March 2011 Fukushima accident, and FANR has said that the ENEC’s additional assessment has demonstrated the robustness of the proposed plan.

“In our 18 month review, involving more than 200 experts, we looked at severe accident management very thoroughly. In a way, we were fortunate that we were just at the beginning of our review when the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station occurred, so we asked ENEC to do a detailed “lessons learned” study.

FANR has been interacting with international organisations – for example the IAEA – to ensure a thorough understanding of the Fukushima events.

“We evaluated ENEC’s analysis and have included our conclusions in the review of the construction licence application. We looked deeper into earthquakes and tsunamis in the Gulf, and we looked into management of multiple accidents at the same time. The analysis that we asked ENEC to do demonstrated the robustness of the proposed plant, but it also resulted in a number of design enhancements for added safety,” says Dr Travers.

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According to the IAEA, the UAE is the first country to “go nuclear” since China in 1981 (this obviously excludes Iran’s nuclear programme), and of course much has happened in the nuclear landscape since that date. If this has meant the UAE is under greater scrutiny, it certainly hasn’t struggled in the limelight.

“We cooperate with many domestic and international bodies. In line with the country’s commitment to transparency, we have invited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct a review of the full scope of FANR’s regulatory work. During December 2011, that mission reviewed organisational arrangements and implementation details of FANR’s review of Braka Units 1 and 2 Construction Licence Application.

"The mission concluded that “FANR [had] essential regulations and a review process for effectively conducting the review of the applications received to date”, and that the “Review and assessment in FANR with the support of TSOs [was] organisationally a well arranged and managed process,” says Dr Travers.

“In other words, we are aware of our responsibilities towards the Government and people of the UAE, and we are playing our role within the global nuclear community to increase nuclear safety, everywhere,” he adds.

As ENEC gets construction underway at the Braka site, FANR is set to begin a “vigorous inspection programme” for this phase of the project, with ENEC legally responsible for meeting FANR’s requirements.

“FANR’s regulatory oversight during construction is intended to provide an independent check that our requirements are met. In addition to inspectors based in our Abu Dhabi headquarters, we plan to have resident inspectors on the site. We will also conduct inspections at the office of ENEC, its contractors, its major component vendors in Korea, in the US, and wherever we deem necessary,” Dr Travers concludes.

Introducing the UAE’s FANR
Established in 2009, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) is the UAE’s sole authority for licencing and inspecting all parties using nuclear power or radiation technology. The organisation has so far issued 13 regulations and a number of regulatory guides on the safety and security of nuclear facilities.

FANR’s Preliminary Safety Analysis Report, stretched to over 2,500 pages of technical findings and 223 specific review areas. FANR also received a report from the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety covering its safety evaluation report on the reference plant for Braka – Shin Kori Nuclear Power Plant Units 3 and 4.

Braka in Figures
4 x APR1400 reactors each producing 1,400 MW
Estimated project cost: $20 billion
Forecast CO2 savings: 12 million tonnes per year
Projected completion: May 2020

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