Wednesday, July 18, 2012

UAE grants license to build two reactors

Four reactors are planned to supply electricity for manufacturing, general use, and water desalinization

Shovel_break_groundReuters reports that the United Arab Emirates will be the first gulf state to start construction of a commercial nuclear power plant in the region. 

The UAE has committed itself to this energy path to avoid using increasingly scarce natural gas supplies for electricity generation, water desalinization, and industrial development. The UAE has deposits of bauxite which it wants to convert into a finished aluminum goods industry for exports. Smelters and fabrication centers will be significant users of power.

The UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) said in a statement that the license had been granted and allows ENEC to construct two South Korean APR1400 advanced pressurized water reactors.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has been granted a license to construct two nuclear reactor units at its Barakah site located on the western shore of the Persian gulf in Abu Dhabi. (Map) (Place name defined)

Emirates Nuclear Logo

The license does not allow ENEC to operate the units. ENEC must apply to FANR for a separate operating license.  This process is similar to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Part 50 process which requires a construction license to build the reactor and an operating license to run it to make electricity.

FANR director-general William Travers said a comprehensive review of the construction permit application was carried out over 18 months by more than 200 technical experts. 

The review covered topics including the characteristics of the proposed site, the design of the facility, safety analysis, management systems and quality assurance for construction, radiation safety measures, physical protection and safeguards.  The UAE's nuclear regulator said this project would avoid mistakes made in Japan.

FANR logoFANR said the review builds upon an additional assessment by ENEC of lessons learned from the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station.

That assessment, which was requested and reviewed by FANR as an integral part of the application, demonstrated the robustness of ENEC’s proposed plant. It also resulted in a number of design enhancements for added safety.

"We have tried to learn as many lessons as we could from Fukushima, and we asked ENEC to address the issue in a report, which they did," said William Travers, director general of the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

Travers is a former senior official of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hired by FANR to bring that agency's expertise and best practices to the UAE. ( See PPT Slides: Travers at US NRC on UAE nuclear safety program March 2009 )

Earlier this week ENEC received approval from the environmental regulator for construction of the two units.  ENEC submitted its construction license application for Barakah-1 and -2 on 27 December 2010.  FANR has published the Barakah safety evaluation report on its website.

The project involves four new South Korean PWR type nuclear reactors at 1,400 MW each. The estimated cost, including transmission and distribution infrastructure, is $30 billion. The first reactor is expected to enter revenue service by 2017 with three others to follow at about one a year. The deal was signed in December 2009. Financing will be a combination of export credits from South Korea, bonds offered to institutional investors, and cash from the UAE.

UAE SKorea nuclear deal
Image: Gulf News  Caption: President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Abu Dhabi on 12/27/09 A South Korean consortium won a deal to build four nuclear reactors for the UAE, beating US and French rivals to one of the Middle East's biggest energy contracts. ____________________________________________________________________

Permanent inspection effort

According to the English language UAE newspaper The National, FANR plans to have an inspection program and a permanent office at Barakah, which is slocated 300km west of the capital.

About 5,000 workers from more than 10 nations already live at the site, where signs are posted in English, Arabic and Korean.

A massive concrete batch plant, capable of making 600 cubic yards of concrete an hour, has been used for the construction of two villages housing the workers and will now be put to use to make the foundations of the reactors.

“We will have the first concrete pouring,” said Jun-Yeon Byun the chief nuclear officer of Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), the lead company in the contract. “I’m very happy.”

Workforce development

UAE reactor operators (Enec)Nuclear Engineering International Magazine reported in May that a joint UAE/South Korean program graduated its first class of nuclear reactor operators.  A similar report appeared in World Nuclear News (see WNN image right).

The program, which is being delivered by ENEC’s training partner Westinghouse Electric Company, is part of comprehensive training to prepare the students to attain Senior Reactor Operator (SRO) Licensure/Certification.

“Highly knowledgeable, safety-conscious and skilled reactor operators are essential to the safe and reliable operation of the UAE’s first nuclear energy facility”, said ENEC’s Deputy Chief Nuclear Officer Ahmed Al Mazrouei.

WNN reported ENEC expects to require more than 2000 workers by 2020, with a target of 60% being Emiratis. The company currently employs more than 400 people, 60% of whom are from the UAE. More than 170 Emirati students are currently sponsored under Enec's scholarship programs.

More reactors soon plus fuel to run them

ENEC is expected to submit license applications for two more reactors by the end of 2012. Also, fuel contracts for the reactors are expected to be completed this year. Australia and Russia are reported to be on the short list of countries for this part of the supply chain.

The UAE signed an 1-2-3 agreement under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act with the United States in early 2009. It gives up its right to enrich uranium domestically and to reprocess spent fuel. This agreement is considered to be a "gold standard" for nonproliferation and helps promote the concept of international fuel banks.

Note on Water desalinization in UAE

The UAE will use reverse osmosis plants located near employment and population centers. Power from the nuclear reactors will support their operation.

water desalinization tech

Image: City University of New York

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