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Nuclear energy in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates has a critical need for new, clean sources of electricity.

Studies conducted by the government show that national annual peak demand for electricity is calculated to rise to more than 40,000 megawatts by 2020, a cumulative annual growth rate of roughly 9 percent. Currently, committed capacity can meet only half of this demand.

The UAE studied numerous options to meet this demand. This study was wide-ranging and determined that:

  • Natural gas that could be made available to the nation’s electricity sector would be insufficient to meet future demand.
  • The burning of liquids (crude oil and/or diesel) would be logistically viable but costly and environmentally harmful.
  • Coal-fired power generation, while potentially cheaper, would be environmentally unacceptable, and potentially vulnerable from a security of supply standpoint.
  • And finally, deployment of renewable and other alternative energy supplies, while desirable, would be able to supply only 6 to 7 percent of the required electricity generation capacity by 2020.

The UAE government determined that nuclear power was the most viable and compelling solution to meet the UAE’s energy needs.

No. The UAE, as part of its commitment to non-proliferation and to building the best possible nuclear energy program, has said it will not enrich or reprocess used fuel domestically.
In developing its nuclear energy policy, the UAE government made its peaceful objectives very clear.

The ENEC Program

ENEC awarded the Prime Contract to the Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) – one of the world leaders in safety, plant reliability and efficiency.

KEPCO is the world’s third largest nuclear energy company.  It is recognised by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) as a leader in safety, plant reliability and efficiency, and currently receives among the highest scores in the WANO performance indicator program.

KEPCO was chosen following a stringent year-long evaluation process by a 75-member committee of international experts. .The criteria for the selection process included safety, deliverability, adherence to the Prime Contract structure, the commercial offer, and a commitment to human resource development.

The UAE’s first nuclear energy plants will be four APR1400 nuclear reactors, proven technology that meets the highest international standards for safety, performance and environmental impact.

The APR1400 design was developed by the Korean nuclear industry under the leadership of KEPCO over a period of 10 years, and has been licensed by Korea’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Korean Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS). The design is based on the System 80+ design, which was previously certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the United States.

Four APR1400 units are now under construction in South Korea, with the first of these scheduled to be connected to the grid by 2013. These units will serve as the “reference plants” for the UAE.

The APR1400 plants will be adapted to suit the UAE’s climate conditions and any specific requirements of the UAE nuclear safety regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

Nuclear Energy Plants

Yes. The performance records of 441 nuclear energy facilities operating in more than 30 countries have demonstrated that nuclear energy is safe. 

The World Association of Nuclear Operators tracks data on plant performance, including safety system performance, fuel reliability and industrial accident rates. The performance data consistently show positive results. And the global industry continually shares its best practices about nuclear plant designs, training, operations and maintenance as a way to improve performance.

In the UAE, the national regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, will play an essential role in ensuring that nuclear energy in our nation is safe, secure and reliable.

Nuclear power plants are extremely robust in design. Indeed, they rank among the strongest structures ever built – the APR1400 can withstand the impact of most commercial aircraft

Every nuclear reactor has multiple barriers for safety. This is called the ‘defense in depth’ approach to safety:

  • The fuel pellet, fuel rods and reactor all sit inside a steel vessel.
  • That large steel vessel is enclosed by a containment unit - a very large metal dome that is surrounded by very thick layers of reinforced concrete.
  • The containment building is so strong; it can withstand the impact of a commercial aircraft.
Nuclear Energy Basics

One of the most remarkable qualities of nuclear energy is fuel efficiency.

Nuclear reactors are incredibly efficient - they produce huge volumes of electricity from a very small amount of fuel.

One uranium pellet produces the same amount of energy as 474 liters of oil or 1 ton of coal. That‘s enough electricity to power one household for up to four months

A nuclear reactor produces electricity in much the same way other power plants work.  Some form of energy creates heat, which turns water into steam.  The steam turns a generator to produce power.

The difference is how the heat is created. Power plants that run on fossil fuels burn coal, oil or natural gas to generate heat.  In a nuclear energy facility, heat is produced from splitting atoms – a process called nuclear fission.

Diagram 1

  1. nuclear reactor creates heat that is used to make steam
  2. the steam turns a turbine connected to an electromagnet, called a generator
  3. the generator produces electricity

In a Pressurized Water Reactor – the type of reactor being built in the UAE – high pressure prevents water in the reactor vessel from boiling.  The super-heated water is carried to a steam generator, which is made up of many small pipes. The heat in these pipes is used to turn a second, isolated, supply of water to steam, which is in turn used to drive the turbine. The water from the reactor is pumped back into the reactor vessel and reheated. The steam from the turbine is cooled in a condenser and the resulting water is sent back to the steam generator.

Radiation

There are many natural sources of radiation that we live with safely every day.

Radiation is the term used for energy in motion. It can be in the form of waves or particles.

For example - We receive radiation from the sun – called cosmic radiation.

Uranium – which an abundant element found in most rocks, is one of many naturally radioactive elements in the world.

The radiation from the nuclear energy industry contributes to less than 1% of the radiation we receive from other sources – a very small amount.

Fuel cycle

The UAE as part of its commitment to building the best possible nuclear program has said it will not “make” its own fuel (known generally as enrichment) or reprocess used fuel so that it can be used in other ways.

Instead, ENEC will purchase fuel from companies and countries in the nuclear fuel market.

Nuclear waste has been safely stored around the world for decades.

ENEC is currently reviewing options for long-term storage, but disposal of solid waste will be done in strict accordance with the guidelines outlined by FANR and IAEA.

For low level waste – storage options include near surface or geological repositories.

For high level waste such as spent fuel, these can be safely stored and closely monitored either at the plant site or at a centralized location.

Safety

Yes. The nuclear energy industry takes the safety and security of those who live near its facilities very seriously.

Nuclear energy plants are designed and built to contain radiation – they are safe workplaces for hundreds of staff.

Nuclear energy plants represent one of the smallest sources of radiation exposure to the public. If you stood at the site boundary for a whole year, you would receive less than:

  • a quarter of the radiation you would get from a chest x-ray at the doctors.
  • a third of the radiation you would get on a flight from Paris to New York.
Security

ENEC is working with the Critical National Infrastructure Authority, the Abu Dhabi government agency tasked with handling the protection and security of the Emirate’s vital assets and infrastructure,  under the regulation of FANR and with the guidance of the IAEA to develop and implement the highest international standards of safety and security across the program.

The CNIA is currently recruiting a highly trained and specialized nuclear security force for this purpose.

Emergency Preparedness

A dedicated Emergency Preparedness and Response team will be responsible for developing the emergency response plan. The plan will be tested regularly, and any residents living in a 50 kilometer radius of the site will receive regular information and training on what to do in the event of an incident.

We are currently working with the CNIA, FANR and the IAEA as well as international nuclear experts to develop the Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan. Details of the plan will be shared with the public well ahead of the commencement of operations in 2017.

Environment

Nuclear power is the safest and cleanest way to produce large amounts of baseload electricity.

Nuclear energy produces only 2 – 5% of the carbon emissions produced by a coal power plant.

The fuel it uses, uranium, is more abundant than fossil fuels.

One uranium pellet produces the same amount of energy as 474 liters of oil or 1 ton of coal

We are committed to operating in an environmentally responsible manner when it comes to the Braka location throughout construction and operation.

We are working under the regulations of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and have conducted a detailed site characterization of existing environmental conditions, and submitted a series of environmental studies to the EAD.

We will be actively pursuing programs that support the environmental ambitions of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

Human Capacity Development

Jobs in the nuclear industry are diverse, from engineers to reactor operators to construction workers and office workers.

Key departments include construction, engineering, business and contract functions, nuclear safeguards, nuclear energy, human resources, training and education, and many others.

Current estimates are that the program will need between 2,100 and 2,300 staff by 2020. Of this 60% is projected to be made up of Emirati nationals.

 
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