Interview: Mohamed Al Hammadi
In what ways is ENEC working to ensure reliable operational expertise to safeguard the long-term benefits of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant?
MOHAMED AL HAMMADI: One of the key objectives of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme is to ensure the development of high-value careers for UAE nationals in this new industrial sector – a goal that stands to benefit the country. From the inception of the programme, we have focused on capacity building to ensure we achieve this objective through the continuous transfer of knowledge and expertise from global nuclear industry experts to the Emirati nuclear professionals who will lead the programme for the 60-year duration of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant’s operations.
Around 60% of our employees are UAE nationals – professionals who are already becoming international leaders in their specialisations. In 2019 we saw a historic achievement in the development of the programme’s human resources: the certification of the first UAE nationals as reactor operators and senior reactor operators, as well as the qualification of UAE nationals as local plant operators, quality assurance surveyors and other roles essential for the operation of the facility. By May 2020 the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) certified 72 reactor operators and senior reactor operators, 30 of which were UAE nationals.
What will the additional influx of electricity mean for overall energy dynamics in Abu Dhabi?
AL HAMMADI: Between 2005 and 2017 the population and GDP of the UAE more than doubled. Meanwhile, energy demand almost tripled, reaching 129.5 TWh in 2017. Around the world, electricity is the fastest-growing final energy source. Nuclear energy is a credible vehicle for the decarbonisation efforts that are critical for tackling climate change, an issue that is increasingly prioritised in national energy strategies worldwide.
Once all four reactors are operational, the Barakah plant will deliver 5600 MW of reliable, efficient and carbon-free electricity. Nuclear energy is the most reliable electricity-generation technology because it delivers large amounts of electricity with an average global availability factor of around 90%, without releasing harmful greenhouse gasses. The plant is expected to supply around 25% of the UAE’s energy demand, saving more than 21m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. That is equivalent to removing 3.2m cars from the roads on an annual basis.
How does ENEC partner with domestic and international stakeholders to guarantee safety?
AL HAMMADI: ENEC works to meet the robust standards established by FANR, as well as independent international organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). Experts from these organisations regularly visit the Barakah plant and our corporate offices to ensure that we develop, implement and maintain practices that meet the highest standards and support a modern nuclear safety culture. In June 2018 the UAE became the first country in the world to be assessed as a part of the IAEA’s Phase 3 Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review, which provided valuable feedback and reaffirmed the UAE’s status as a strong case study on how to implement nuclear safety and best practices in a country where there was previously no nuclear programme.
ENEC and the Nawah Energy Company are both members of WANO, which provides expert reviews and recommendations on the management of nuclear facilities. WANO’s experts have visited and inspected the Barakah plant more than 30 times since 2016, including in January 2020 for the pre-start-up review of Unit 1, which confirmed that the first unit in the Arab world was ready to operate safely. As part of our commitment to continuous learning, we welcome and encourage feedback in our ongoing pursuit of improvement, in line with the best practices of the global nuclear energy industry.
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