Power Generation

Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant ... now connected to Abu Dhabi’s grid.

Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant ... now connected to Abu Dhabi’s grid.

Nuclear milestone

With the connection of a unit at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant to the country’s grid, the UAE has become the first country in the Arab World to begin using nuclear energy to generate safe, clean and reliable baseload electricity.

September 2020

The UAE reached a major milestone in its journey towards clean energy generation last month when the first unit of the nuclear power plant at Barakah was connected to the country’s grid, and began despatching its first megawatts to homes and businesses across the nation.

With this milestone, the UAE has become the first country in the Arab World, and the 33rd nation globally, to develop a nuclear energy plant to generate safe, clean and reliable baseload electricity.

The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is located in the Al Dhafra of Abu Dhabi on the Arabian Gulf, approximately 53 km southwest of the city of Ruwais.  It comprises four units of APR1400 design nuclear reactors which aim to supply up to 25 per cent of the UAE’s electricity needs once fully operational. They will produce 5.6 gigawatts (GW) 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 nation’s roads annually.

Unit 1 connection, also referred to as ‘grid synchronisation’, follows the safe and successful start-up of the unit at the end of July 2020 by Nawah Energy Company (Nawah), the operations and maintenance subsidiary of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), which is spearheading the nuclear energy project.

During the process, the generator in Unit 1 was integrated and synchronised with the requirements of the UAE’s electricity transmission grid.

The grid connection was carried out by Nawah in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company (Transco), a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa).

Transco constructed 952 km of 400 kV overhead lines to connect Unit 1 to the Abu Dhabi electricity grid – ensuring the power generated at Barakah is safely, securely and reliably delivered to consumers across the UAE.

Enec CEO Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi comments: “The safe and successful connection of Unit 1 to the UAE grid marks the key moment when we begin to deliver on our mission to power the growth of the nation by supplying clean electricity, around the clock.”

Al Hammadi points out that the successful delivery of electricity to the nation was the result of strong and sustained collaboration with Enec’s local and international partners. Enec had roped in Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) as the prime contractor and joint venture partner for the UAE nuclear energy plant in a bid to capitalise on its 40-plus years of nuclear experience.

“We extend our full appreciation to Transco, and our prime contractor and joint venture partner, the Korea Electric Power Corporation, as well as the many other UAE-based stakeholders and numerous international nuclear organisations who have worked closely with us over the past decade,” Al Hammadi adds.

With the integration and connection complete, Unit 1’s nuclear operators will begin the process of gradually raising the power levels, known as Power Ascension Testing (PAT). This testing will be conducted under the continued oversight of the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator, Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), which has now conducted more than 280 inspections since the start of the Barakah plant’s development.

This is in addition to over 40 missions and assessments by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and World Association of Nuclear Operators, according to Enec.

The start-up of Unit 1 in July marked the first time that the reactor safely produced heat, used to create steam, turning a turbine to generate electricity. 

Since receiving the operating licence from the FANR in February and the completion of fuel assembly loading in March, Nawah 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.

Meanwhile, work was recently completed on Unit 2 of the plant, with operational readiness preparations now under way by Nawah.

Construction of Units 3 and 4 is in the final stages, with the overall completion of the four units now standing at 94 per cent, according to Enec.

Construction work on the landmark project commenced in July 2012 with the pouring of safety-related concrete for Unit 1. This followed the receipt of the construction licence from the FANR and a no objection certificate from Abu Dhabi’s environmental regulator, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). Barakah was selected as the site for the project based on several factors, including environmental, technical and commercial, following a comprehensive evaluation process led by local and international experts.  

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