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UAE's nuclear regulator FANR issues operating licence for Abu Dhabi’s Barakah nuclear plant

The decision to issue the operating licence is a culmination of efforts made by FANR since it received an operating licence application from ENEC, on behalf of Nawah, in 2015

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Left-to-right: Ambassador-Hamad-Al-Kaabi, FANR-DG-Christer-Viktorsson
Left-to-right: Ambassador-Hamad-Al-Kaabi, FANR-DG-Christer-Viktorsson

The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, FANR, the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator, has today announced it has granted Nawah Energy Company the operating licence for Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, making the UAE the first country in the Arab region to operate a nuclear power plant.

FANR also said that it has also authorised Nawah to commission and operate Unit 1 of the nuclear power plant located in Al Dhafra, Abu Dhabi, under a 60-year licence.

Nawah is the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation’s subsidiary responsible for operation of the nuclear power plant.

The decision to issue the operating licence is a culmination of efforts made by FANR since it received an operating licence application from ENEC, on behalf of Nawah, in 2015.

The nuclear plant project has been more than a decade in the making. Barakah, located near the oil town of Ruwais in the far west of Abu Dhabi, is the first nuclear power plant in the Gulf region and the first commercial station in the Arab world.

When completed, it will have four reactors with total capacity of 5,600 megawatts, with the capacity to eventually provide about 25 per cent of the UAE's energy needs.

FANR followed a systematic review process that included a thorough assessment of the application documentation, conducting robust regulatory oversight and inspections.

The assessment included reviewing the plant’s layout design and the analysis of the site’s location in terms of geography and demography.

It also included the reactor design, cooling systems, security arrangements, emergency preparedness, radioactive waste management and other technical aspects.

FANR also assessed Nawah’s organisational and manpower readiness with all the required processes and procedures to ensure the safety and security of nuclear power plant.

The UAE's independent nuclear regulator reviewed the 14,000-page operating licence application, conducted more than 185 inspections and requested approximately 2,000 additional pieces of information on various matters related to reactor design, safety and other issues to ensure the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant’s complete compliance with all regulatory requirements.

"Today’s announcement is another milestone for the UAE, culminating efforts of 12 years towards the development of the UAE Nuclear Energy Programme to which FANR played a significant role to turn this vision into reality," said Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and Deputy Chairman of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.

“A new achievement has been just made by the UAE, becoming the first Arab country to operate a peaceful nuclear power plant. The UAE today granted Nawah Energy Company the operating license for Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. Achievements are being doubled by the UAE people. I congratulate my brother Mohammad Bin Zayed on this historic feat,” tweeted out His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, hailing the announcement.

“This is a historical moment for the UAE, making it the first Arab country in the region to operate a nuclear power plant culminating efforts of 12 years in building such a programme,” he added.

“Nawah, the operator, will undertake a period of commissioning to prepare for the commercial operation during which FANR will have around the clock inspection, using its resident inspectors at Barakah Nuclear Power Plant and deploying other inspectors,” he said.

The commissioning phase will see Nawah begin the process of loading the fuel into the reactor, according to Christer Viktorsson, director general of FANR.

“Nawah has all the legal instruments to start, but operations will not start overnight. They have to do tests, but first of all they have to load the fuel into the reactor, which will take some weeks.

“All the safety systems have to be tested as well, we at FANR have prescribed a lot of tests for them to carry out, and we will be there to supervise. I’m sure Nawah have their timeline, but we don’t regulate that and so they can take the time they need before they move to full commercial operation,” he added.

To issue the approval for the 14,000-page operating license application, FANR conducted more than 185 inspections and requested 2,000 additional pieces of information related to the reactor’s design, safety and other issues related to regulatory requirements.

The license application for Unit 1 was submitted by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) in 2015 on behalf of its subsidiary Nawah, which will be the official operator of the site.

“Today marks a new chapter in our journey for the development of peaceful nuclear energy with the issuing of the operating license for the first Barakah plant. As we prepare for the next 50 years to safeguard our needs, our biggest strength is national talent,” tweeted out His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces.

All international conventions and agreements were abided by throughout the entire process, with FANR also allowing several international inspections to the nuclear site, said Al Kaabi.

“The UAE nuclear energy programme, including the nuclear law and regulations, conforms to the safety standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the international best practices.

“The UAE received in the past decade 11 major peer review missions from the IAEA to review and assess various aspects from nuclear infrastructure, the legal and regulatory system, nuclear safety… and nonproliferation,” he added.

“Such commitments ensure the programme is designed for peaceful purposes and in line with national and international laws,” he said.

Unit 1 reactor makes up the first of four reactors at the Barakah nuclear site, when completed, all four reactors will contribute to 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity generation and will also reduce C02 emissions by 21 million tonnes annually.

Al Kaabi said that no timeline was currently available on when the operating license for Unit 2 would be made.

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