Barakah 1 powers up18 November 2020
On 19 August 2020 the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced grid connection and synchronisation of its 1400 MWe Barakah 1 pressurised water reactor, designed and built under the leadership of Korea Electric Power Corp, which was awarded the prime contract in 2009. The connection was effected by ENEC’s O&M subsidiary Nawah Energy Company (in which Kepco has an 18% share), in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company (TRANSCO), a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA). As of 22 September unit 1 had achieved 50% of full power.
Above: The Barakah site
First safety related concrete for unit 1 was poured in July 2012 and construction was declared complete in March 2018 – an impressive achievement. Fuel loading was finalised in March 2020.
Once the remaining three units at the site are in full operation, the plant, located in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi, will be capable of providing up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs.
The project, in addition to the UAE’s efforts at implementing other forms of clean power generation, “delivers one of the most ambitious clean electricity transformations in the region and the world, setting the nation on a new track of sustainable development and electrification”, said H.E. Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, CEO of ENEC.
TRANSCO’s role in the effort is described as “both critical and extensive”, having constructed 952 km of 400 kV overhead lines to connect the new nuclear plant to the Abu Dhabi grid.
With the integration and connection complete, Unit 1’s operators went into the power ascension testing (PAT) phase of the commissioning process. Throughout this phase the operators will “follow international best practice to safely progress and test the unit as it proceeds towards full electricity production”, says ENEC, noting that the testing is being conducted under the continued oversight of the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator, FANR (Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation), which has now conducted more than 280 inspections since the start of Barakah’s development. This is in addition to over 40 missions and assessments by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), ENEC notes.
Construction completion has been achieved on unit 2, with operational readiness preparations by Nawah now underway.
Construction of units 3 and 4 is now in the final stages, with unit 3 being at around 93% completion and unit 4 at about 86% completion as of August 2020.
The four Barakah units are of the Korean designed two-loop APR1400 type, with an expected operational life-span of 60 years, pending regulatory approval. The reactor design has its origins in the Combustion Engineering System 80+ (now owned by Westinghouse), developed in the USA and subsequently becoming the basis for Korea’s standardised nuclear power plant designs.
Classified as “Generation III+” the APR1400 incorporates passive safety systems, which aim to ensure safe reactor shutdown, removal of decay heat, and the prevention of radioactive releases.
The UAE’s reactors have been adapted to suit the country’s climate and as well as specific requirements of FANR. These design modifications include:
- larger pumps, heat exchangers and pipes to increase the water flow rate of the cooling systems to manage the higher seawater temperatures in the Gulf;
- seawater intake and plant cooling systems designed to ensure compliance with environmental standards designed to limit Gulf water temperature changes near the plant;
- improved ventilation and air conditioning to counter the effects of higher temperatures, drier air and large volumes of airborne sand and dust; and
- enhanced intake screen design to help protect local fish populations during plant operation.