Unit 2 of Arab world’s first nuclear plant located in UAE starts commercial operations 

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The second unit of the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at Barakah has started commercial operations, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) announced last week.  

The second unit of the Barakah NPP was earlier successfully connected to the national power grid in September 2021, two weeks after the start-up of the reactor was completed. 

The first unit of the Barakah NPP, situated in the Al Dhafra region of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, entered commercial service in April 2021, while its start-up was accomplished in August 2020.   

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

The two units are now supplying a combined power of 2,800 MW to the UAE grid. The NPP is 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 Barakah plant.  

The ENEC is building and operating the plant, situated on the Persian Gulf coast, jointly the with the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). Units 3 and 4 are at the final stages of commissioning. 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. 

“The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is a sustainable powerhouse for the UAE. The start of commercial operations at Unit 2 doubles the Barakah plant’s generation of emissions-free electricity, enabling rapid decarbonisation of the UAE’s power sector in pursuit of Net Zero 2050”, ENEC Managing Director and CEO Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi said in a statement. 

“With Unit 2 reaching commercial operations less than 12 months after Unit 1, we have demonstrated the UAE’s megaproject capabilities, building institutional knowledge to enhance delivery to the highest standards, and offer a successful case study for other nations looking to diversify their energy portfolio using a proven and sustainable technology”, he added.  

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. 

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. 

“When its four units are commercially operating, the Barakah Plant will produce up to 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity needs and will prevent about 22.4 million tons of carbon emissions annually, equivalent to the emissions of 4.8 million cars”, the ENEC said. 

The UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) issued an operating license for the Barakah unit 2 to the ENEC’s operations and maintenance subsidiary Nawah Energy Company in March 2021, with fuel loading beginning soon after. 

FANR 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 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, the ENEC said. 

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