Unit 2 of Arab world’s first nuclear plant located in UAE connected to grid

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The second unit of the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was successfully connected to the national power grid earlier this month, two weeks after the start-up of the reactor was completed, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has announced. 

The first unit of the Barakah NPP situated in the Al Dhafra region of the emirate of Abu Dhabi entered commercial service in April this year. The unit 1 started up in August last year.   

An ENEC statement said that the second of four units at the power plant was successfully connected to the UAE grid and has begun delivering the first megawatts of carbon-free electricity to businesses, schools and homes. At full capacity, the unit will add a further 1,400 MW of clean electricity to the grid. 

ENEC also said that the unit 2 generator was integrated and synchronised in compliance with the requirements of the UAE’s national electricity transmission grid. The UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) issued an operating license for Barakah 2 to the ENEC’s operations and maintenance subsidiary Nawah Energy Company  in March 2021, with fuel loading beginning soon after. 

The second unit’s grid connection brings the company “another step closer to the half-way mark of its goal to supply up to a quarter of the country’s electricity needs 24/7, while driving reductions in carbon emissions – the leading cause of climate change”, ENEC said. 

The UAE, which has among the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, while also being richly endowed with renewable energy sources – sunlight and wind – has launched a major programme of developing alternative energy sources, including nuclear and solar. 

“The Barakah nuclear energy plant plays a pivotal role in achieving the UAE’s goals of diversifying energy sources, increasing the share of clean energy resources and supporting economic and social development, as well as meeting the UAE’s objectives and international commitments to address the challenges of climate change”, said the UAE Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei. 

“The Barakah plant contributes to consolidating the UAE’s leading role in the regional and global energy sectors, as the plant is now the largest single generator of electricity in the Arab world. It is also the largest contributor to reducing carbon emissions in the region; positioning the UAE as the first Arab country to have a multi-unit nuclear energy plant in operation”, he added.  

According to the ENEC, the cumulative knowledge and expertise developed by the operations teams on unit 1 has been used to connect unit 2 to the grid more efficiently, with a 10 percent reduction in the time between start-up and connection. 

With the integration and connection complete, the second unit’s nuclear operators will begin the process of gradually raising the power levels of the reactor, known as Power Ascension Testing (PAT). 

This testing will be done under the continued oversight of the national regulator FANR which has conducted over 335 independent inspections since the start of the NPP’s development. These reviews have been conducted alongside more than 42 assessments and reviews conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). 

The ENEC is building and operating the plant, located on the Persian Gulf coast, jointly the with the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). The Barakah NPP will be powered by 1,400 MW pressurised water reactors (PWRs) called APR-1400 designed in South Korea. Four reactors are planned to be installed at the plant, while the ENEC said it was committed to the “highest standards of safety and security”. 

According to the ENEC “the Barakah plant will supply clean baseload electricity to the grid – complementing intermittent renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind, which are not able to generate electricity on a continuous basis. It will provide up to 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity needs once fully operational and will help prevent the release of 21 million tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to removing 3.2 million cars off the road annually.” 

At the time the Barakah unit 1 achieved its first criticality last year, the IAEA said: “This is an important milestone towards commercial operations and generating clean energy. IAEA has been supporting (the UAE) from the beginning of its nuclear power programme”. 

The UAE has signed up to adhere to the IAEA’s Additional Protocol that allows for significant enhancement of inspection capabilities. It has also signed the 123 Agreement with the US that allows bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation. Moreover, in a move to further reassure about safety concerns, the UAE has agreed not to enrich its own uranium or reprocess spent fuel.  

The Barakah NPP unit 1 is now producing thousands of megawatts (MW) of clean electricity. Units 3 and 4 are in the final stages of commissioning at 95 percent and 91 percent complete, respectively. The development of the plant as a whole is now more than 96 percent complete. When fully operational, the plant will produce 5,600 MW of electricity for more than 60 years to come. 

According to ENEC, its subsidiary in charge of the financial and commercial activities of the project, Barakah One Company, has signed a power purchase agreement with the Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC) in 2016 to purchase all electricity generated at the plant for the next 60 years.

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