The Emirati engineers behind the UAE's Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant
Discover the nationalisation efforts of the UAE's megaproject with Eng Ali Al Hammadi, chief engineering and construction officer at Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation
Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, currently under construction in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi Emirate began to take shape in 2012 and once operational will deliver clean, reliable and efficient electricity to the UAE grid. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has successfully completed construction of Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy plant and handed over all systems to its subsidiary in charge of operations and maintenance.
The UAE nuclear energy sector has already contributed significantly to the growth of our nation and its economy. The UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program is a clear example of the crucial role young and talented UAE nationals are playing in the development of a new economic and industrial sector, providing long-term, sustainable and skilled jobs.
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) was founded in 2009 with a vision to power the future growth and prosperity of the UAE through the delivery of clean, safe and efficient electricity from nuclear energy and the development of a robust knowledge-based economy. Nine years on, ENEC is succeeding on both fronts, to a large degree because of the incredible efforts of engineers, experts and professionals from all corners of the UAE.
In March 2018, ENEC announced the completion of construction of the first of four planned nuclear reactors at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, a historic achievement for all those involved. The UAE has become the first Arab nation to begin developing a nuclear energy programme and the first global newcomer since 1985, yet it has finished building a nuclear unit in just 69 months, setting new standards for the global nuclear industry.
The development of a peaceful nuclear energy program is an investment for the future and the benefits include much more than just electricity generation. The journey from launch to complete decommissioning takes between 100 and 150 years, requiring a long-term vision and planning for human resources and development. Before ENEC’s introduction of the Energy Pioneers and Higher Diploma Program in Nuclear Technology programs in 2009, there were very few avenues for Emiratis to enter the nuclear energy industry. In fact, the country had only one qualified nuclear engineer – HE Hamad AlKaabi, now Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Today, ENEC employs hundreds of UAE national nuclear specialists, who work alongside the company`s international experts, as well as counterparts from ENEC’s prime contractor and joint venture partner, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). Together they share knowledge and expertise and ensure the Barakah plant is developed in adherence to the highest international standards of safety, quality and security.
Eng Ali Al Hammadi, ENEC’s chief engineering and construction officer, is one of the 120 Emirati engineers who have worked directly on the construction and commissioning of Unit 1. Having joined the ENEC team in 2010, he is one of the UAE’s most distinguished nuclear professionals. Al Hammadi brought with him extensive experience in engineering, construction, quality assurance, project management, safety and performance monitoring, and business management. He also brought with him many years of experience from the oil and gas industry. Ali served as a project manager for ADNOC (formerly GASCO), where he managed significant multi-million dollar plant modifications and upgrade projects. Prior to commencing his professional career, Al Hammadi studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA.
Throughout his various roles at ENEC, Al Hammadi contributes greatly to the development of the Barakah plant. With 19 years of combined experience in nuclear energy and oil & gas project management, he has ensured that the Barakah plant has proceeded in line with regulatory requirements and the highest international standards.
Al Hammadi led the engineering, quality surveillance, material management, and engineering support divisions within ENEC throughout most of the Barakah plant’s construction. Leading a team of 250 employees, including experienced international nuclear experts and up-and-coming UAE nuclear specialists, he is directly responsible for the setting of new standards and construction benchmarks, contributing to the UAE being recognised as a role model for the successful development of peaceful nuclear energy.
Given his significant position and wealth of experience, Al Hammadi also serves as a mentor and career development expert. He works with young UAE nationals entering the nuclear energy sector to ensure they develop the required competencies and receive the knowledge and experience necessary for their success.
Al Hammadi said: “The success of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program can be primarily attributed to the steadfast support from the nation’s leadership and international partners. With the promotion of a healthy nuclear safety culture, together with ENEC’s culture of excellence and prioritisation of quality, UAE nationals have the right foundations as they enter the nuclear industry.”
The recent construction completion of Barakah Unit 1 meant a great deal to Al Hammadi, who has on numerous occasions expressed his pride for what he and his compatriots have achieved at ENEC. The importance of the Barakah plant in supporting the future social and economic growth of the UAE was apparent to Al Hammadi from the very beginning, it was one of the reasons he joined ENEC and why he is proud of where he is today.
Highlighting the importance of completing Unit 1, and doing so to such high standards, Al Hammadi said: “Nuclear energy is new to the UAE, and yet with our South Korean partners we have achieved a tremendous amount in a relatively short time, culminating in the construction completion of Unit 1 in just 69 months. It could be said that this first unit is the most important of all because all the lessons we learned in its construction will, and are already being applied to the development of the second, third and fourth reactors that comprise the Barakah Plant. This ensures that the same high standards of safety and quality we implemented at Unit 1 will be reflected in the remaining units.”
While he may not have been able to imagine it a mere eight years ago, Al Hammadi has become a role model for the UAE nuclear energy leaders of tomorrow. With his dedication to excellence and continuous learning, he has shown exactly why the UAE has become a respected member of the international peaceful nuclear energy community.
This exclusive article was shared with Construction Week by ENEC's media representatives.