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IAEA tours Barakah as UAE plans to 'switch on' first nuclear energy plant

Seven-person IAEA team finds that the UAE has addressed and closed most recommendations made by IAEA in 2015

Barakah NEP is being built in Abu Dhabi.
Wam / Archives
Barakah NEP is being built in Abu Dhabi.

A team of experts from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded a five-day follow-up mission to review the emergency preparedness and response framework for nuclear and radiological emergencies in the UAE, with the Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) carried out at the request of the UAE Government.

The mission, which ended on 12 September 2019, focused on assessing emergency preparedness and response (EPR) arrangements in the country in light of recommendations made during an initial EPREV mission in 2015.

The UAE is building its first nuclear power plant, Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant (Barakah NEP), in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi.

In addition to meeting with IAEA counterparts in the UAE capital, the visiting team also toured the site of Barakah NEP and reviewed emergency operations facilities and a hospital in the town of Ruwais, 50km east of the plant.

Former director of emergency management for Ontario, Canada, David Nodwell, led the seven-person IAEA review team, which included experts from Morocco, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the US.

The mission found that most of its 2015 recommendations had been addressed and closed, and Nodwell said the latest follow-up mission would help fine-tune procedures as the UAE prepares to “switch on its first nuclear power plant”.

He added: “The UAE has followed up on the recommendations from the initial EPREV mission and made significant improvements for preparedness and response to nuclear and radiological emergencies.”

As part of its review of the UAE’s EPR framework, the EPREV team identified a strong commitment to nuclear emergency preparedness within all involved organisations, as evidenced by the training activities, drills, and exercises conducted for relevant stakeholders, and in the incorporation of lessons learned into revised plans.

The EPREV team also commended the UAE’s creation of a joint field team to efficiently conduct environmental, food, and individual monitoring and assessment during a nuclear emergency.

Suggestions made by the EPREV team to further strengthen the UAE’s EPR included the finalisation of the draft Protection Strategy for Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies, and completing efforts to standardise guidelines for terminating a nuclear emergency.

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