Interview: Mohamed Al Hammadi
How environmentally sound and commercially competitive is nuclear energy compared to traditional hydrocarbons sources, specifically for the UAE?
MOHAMED AL HAMMADI: Nuclear energy is a safe and clean industry which will provide economic, efficient and reliable electricity to the UAE. The UAE has long been reliant on fossil fuel-generated energy, so going forward nuclear power will diversify the UAE's energy portfolio for electricity generation and industrial development. This portfolio includes nuclear, renewable and a reduced use of carbon energy. Nuclear energy, however, will give us a great deal of flexibility for future planning when addressing our energy requirements. In terms of environmental benefits, we are expecting to save more than 12m tonnes of CO2 annually with the four planned nuclear energy plants, which is a major reduction in emissions.
What steps are being taken to ensure nuclear technology in the UAE meets global safety standards?
AL HAMMADI: We adhere to high standards when it comes to quality and safety in our organisation and facilities. When the government issued the UAE Policy on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy in 2008, the country committed to meeting the highest safety, quality and non-proliferation standards. What was planned at that time is being implemented now, and we continue to raise the bar in terms of safety standards.
When it comes to technology, we are using generation III nuclear reactors, which have the latest nuclear safety systems. ENEC is continuously expanding the culture of safety across the organisation. We have a high number of skilled and experienced employees that bring decades of expertise in nuclear construction and operational experience, and this team is developing safety programmes and passing on their experience to our Emirati staff. We also have a panel of experts, called the Nuclear Safety Review Board, that analyse safety, security and programme developments that relate to ENEC. Lastly, ENEC is committed to comply with all the standards and regulations of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), which oversees our work and our plants in Baraka.
What initiatives are under way to develop indigenous expertise in nuclear engineering?
AL HAMMADI: The industry will create new, high-value jobs, which in turn will require highly skilled workers. We are involved in an ambitious human capital development programme, which is key to the success of our industry. UAE nationals will play a major part of the operation of these facilities, and the human capital requirement is set to nearly quadruple over the next few years. ENEC will require around 2000 people to operate the power plants. We are also participating in building the education infrastructure to meet the industry’s requirements. Khalifa University has developed a nuclear engineering programme, which is well received by students. This and other education programmes will help develop the new skill-sets required.
To what extent will the nuclear energy sector contribute to Abu Dhabi’s economic and social development in line with Economic Vision 2030?
AL HAMMADI: Nuclear energy will play a major role in economic development. Electricity requirements are growing 9% per year, so a healthy energy mix is crucial. Plants provide base-load electricity for key sectors, such as industry and transport. Factories that need continuous electricity are complementary to nuclear power, and this demand will support energy-intensive industries. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will also grow, as they can provide services, materials and support for the sector. Abu Dhabi has an excellent SME community that serves heavy industry and the oil and gas sector. Catering to the nuclear industry will extend their business. Another important effect of the sector will be the contribution to infrastructure development in Ruwais and Al Gharbia. Housing, education, health and social infrastructure will be enhanced to support the long-term development of these industries.
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