Unit 4 of Arab world’s first nuclear plant located in UAE connected to grid

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The fourth unit of the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at Barakah has been connected to the national grid, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) announced late last month.   

The ENEC said in a statement that the Barakah unit 4 is being prepared to start its commercial operations. 

After its grid connection, the unit is to undergo the Power Ascension Testing, or the process of gradually raising power levels, during which its operation is monitored and tested until maximum electricity production is reached. 

“Grid connection of Unit 4 puts us well on the path to full-fleet commercial operations, and with that, the ability to generate 40 TWh (Terawatt-hours) of clean, baseload electricity annually to drive our Net Zero economy, offering a competitive edge to many businesses, decarbonizing hard-to-abate industries, while presenting a global benchmark for the entire nuclear energy industry,” the ENEC Chief Executive and Managing Director, Mohamed Al Hammadi, said in a statement.  

Unit 4 will add another 1,400 MW of zero-carbon emission electricity to the UAE grid. 

The Barakah NPP is powered by four 1,400 MW pressurised water reactors (PWRs) called APR-1400 designed in South Korea. The ENEC is building and operating the plant, situated on the Persian Gulf coast, jointly the with the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) 

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 the second unit began commercial operations in March 2022.  

When the four units are in commercial operation, the Barakah plant will produce up to 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity needs and is expected to help guarantee the Middle Eastern country’s energy sustainability and achieve its net-zero goals, KEPCO said in a statement. The Barakah project marked South Korea’s first export order of a commercial atomic power plant. 

According to the ENEC, every unit at Barakah has been connected to the grid more efficiently than the previous unit, as institutional knowledge and experience are applied to every subsequent unit. Unit 3 was delivered four months faster than unit 2, and five months faster than unit 1, demonstrating the significant benefit of building multiple units within a phased timeline.  

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 has said.  

The UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (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.