Inside FANR's 2018 tests at UAE's Barakah NEP with Enec, Nawah

Federal regulator's 2018 report reveals key measures taken to ensure Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant's safety and compliance

Unit 1 of the UAE's Barakah NEP.
Arun Girija / Enec
Unit 1 of the UAE's Barakah NEP.

Details have been revealed of the licensing and assessment process carried out by the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) for Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant (Barakah NEP) in Abu Dhabi as of December 2018, alongside developer Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) and operator Nawah Energy Company. 

FANR revealed that by the end of 2018, it had reviewed and assessed approximately 95% of the licence application from Nawah to operate reactor Unit 1 of Barakah. 

Inspections to evaluate the operational readiness of Unit 1 are ongoing and a licence for operation will be issued when FANR has determined that all regulatory requirements are met, according to the annual report, issued in July 2019. 

FANR continued its oversight of the reactor operator and senior reactor operator training and certification programmes for the project during the year.

The authority certified the first batch of nuclear reactor operators at Nawah in July 2019, comprising 15 UAE national senior reactor operators (SROs) and reactor operators (ROs). 

Its report continues: “Nawah submitted the Physical Protection Plan for Operation of Unit 1 and 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, Revision 3 and 4, for FANR to review and approve last year, in conjunction with the licence for operation.” 

Additionally, Nawah provided the schedule for implementation of the Cyber Security Programme Manual. 

FANR completed its review for the Nawah Energy Company’s physical protection arrangements for nuclear fuel storage as part of Nawah’s application for storage of unirradiated nuclear fuel.

“Throughout 2018, FANR staff continued to monitor and evaluate licensed activities at Barakah to verify compliance with FANR regulations,” the report adds. 

“These inspections included the activities of five resident inspectors with permanent offices at Barakah, whose scope of work included monitoring the day-to-day construction and commissioning activities at the nuclear power plant to confirm adherence with FANR’s regulatory requirements. 

“Their oversight covered witnessing and reviewing results of the commissioning tests both in the field and from the main control room of Unit 1.”

FANR inspectors carried out 18 regulatory inspections, which included verification of the licensee’s operator training and certification programme, and its organisational readiness for the operation of Unit 1. 

“The inspections related to organisational readiness were conducted to confirm that Nawah's programmes and procedures have been fully implemented, and that the plant personnel have been sufficiently trained and are qualified to ensure that Unit 1 will be operated in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements.”

All of FANR’s inspections of Enec and Nawah were conducted at the nuclear power plant with the exception of one FANR inspection, which was conducted at a facility of Enec’s sub-vendor in South Korea. 

During the year, FANR also carried out inspections relating to radiation protection and radioactive waste management. 

“These consisted of five inspections addressing process control and radioactive waste management programmes; the Offsite Dose Calculation Manual addressing effluent discharges and environmental monitoring; radiation protection instrument calibration; and the minimisation of contamination,” FANR’s report explains. 

“In 2018, two security inspections by FANR were carried out at Unit 1 of Barakah. The aim of these inspections was to verify the implementation of the Physical Protection System as designed in the Physical Protection Plan for Operation, and the implementation of design enhancements as part of the aircraft impact assessment, and to inspect the equipment for mitigation of loss of large area.”

FANR completed another nuclear safety inspection in December 2018 to ensure the protection of sensitive nuclear information in line with its requirements. 

Technical visits were conducted to review the installation and maintenance of containment and surveillance systems, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also conducted two separate visits to Barakah for physical inventory verification and design information verification activities. 

“The UAE received positive feedback from the IAEA on these verification and technical activities, which confirms continued full compliance with the UAE’s nuclear non-proliferation obligations,” FANR’s report continues. 

Established in September 2009, FANR is the regulator for the nuclear sector in the UAE, pursuant to Federal Law by Decree No (6) of 2009 Concerning the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. 

As such, FANR is responsible for regulating the design, siting, construction, operations, and decommissioning of all nuclear facilities in the UAE, including nuclear power plants. 

Its role is, according to its report, “clearly differentiated” from the operator’s, which is in charge of running and operating the nuclear facility, and is responsible for the structure’s safety. 

“The responsibilities within the area of nuclear safety extend to regulations and regulatory guides, licences, safety assessment, inspections, and enforcement,” FANR’s report explains. 

"In 2018, FANR continued an in-depth review and assessment of the application for a licence for operation for Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. FANR will grant a licence only when it is satisfied that the applicant’s proposals and commitments comply with FANR’s stringent safety requirements.”

FANR continued its inspections of the construction of all of Barakah’s four reactors last year. 

“For this inspection programme, FANR has a permanent resident inspector’s office at the nuclear power plant with five inspectors monitoring construction and commissioning activities full-time,” its report adds. 

"During the year, FANR completed 26 regulatory inspections of the site construction and the operational readiness of the future operator, Nawah. 

“FANR continued its programme of reviewing external construction and operating experience feedback (COEF). 

“The aim of the COEF programme is to review events that have occurred both in the country and internationally in order to learn lessons and implement corrective actions to avoid similar events occurring again. 

“At FANR, there is also a process on the Integrated Management System on the COEF programme.”

According to the report, the process offers an analysis of trends to identify patterns “in events and conditions for the purpose of identifying and taking actions to address underlying causes and prevent the repetition of undesirable events or conditions”. 

The process also covers “lessons learnt and knowledge gained through experience, which will prevent recurrence of undesired events or conditions and promote improvements in nuclear and radiological safety, security, and safeguards”, the report continues, with FANR adding that it conducted “several COEF screening meetings” to assess reports and distribute them for review or action in 2018.

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