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Newcomers Helping Newcomers: UAE's Khalifa University Hosts IAEA Training Course

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The UAE has built its first nuclear power plant at the Barakah site and is close to starting operations. (Photo: ENEC)

What does it take to develop the infrastructure for a new nuclear power programme?

Junior and mid-career professionals from 19 countries seeking answers to that question attended a training course organized by the IAEA in collaboration with Khalifa University of Science and Technology in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which shared its experiences as one of the most advanced newcomers to nuclear power.

The course provided an overview of the IAEA Milestones Approach for developing a sustainable nuclear power programme and the 19 infrastructure issues that countries need to address. Lectures, discussions, case studies, peer-to-peer exchanges of good practices and group sessions covered nuclear safety, security and safeguards, as well as management, human resources and stakeholder involvement.

The course was “indispensable and timely” for the Philippines, according to Ryan Olivares of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, whose country is exploring the inclusion of nuclear power in its energy mix. “My knowledge and understanding about the roles and responsibilities of the different organizations in the three phases of the Milestones Approach, and in implementing national requirements for nuclear safety, nuclear security and nuclear safeguards was greatly enhanced,” said Olivares.

The IAEA course was the latest of several IAEA activities hosted by Khalifa University, which in 2017 was designated as an IAEA Collaborating Centre. The UAE, seeking a reliable low carbon source of energy, has built its first nuclear power plant at the Barakah site and is close to starting operations at the first of four APR-1400 nuclear power reactors (1400 MWe Advanced Power Reactors).

"Through this centre, our national nuclear stakeholders share the UAE experience and expertise in the development of a nuclear power programme,” said Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the IAEA. “Under this framework, we have hosted trainees from all nuclear newcomer countries and provided experts’ contributions to IAEA training courses on different nuclear infrastructure development topics."

The 28 participants hailed from nuclear energy programme implementing organizations (NEPIOs), regulatory bodies and owner/operators in countries considering nuclear power or preparing for its introduction. Around 60 local participants joined them for the IAEA Interregional Training Course on Nuclear Infrastructure Development from 8 to 12 December 2019 in Abu Dhabi.

The course — part of the IAEA project on Supporting Knowledgeable Decision-making and Building Capacities to Start and Implement Nuclear Power Programmes (INT2018) — focused on the roles and responsibilities of the key organizations involved in nuclear power programmes: the NEPIO, the regulatory body and the owner/operator. The course was supported with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy through the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative and implemented through the IAEA technical cooperation programme.

“I have gained more knowledge about the responsibilities of the regulatory body during the three phases of developing a nuclear power programme,” said Moses Oboo from the Uganda Atomic Energy Council. “The information on site survey and site selection, and the licencing procedures and conditions for the site permit were paramount sessions. I will share the knowledge I have gained and the training materials with the technical staff in my organization.”

Besides IAEA and international experts, the lecturers featured professionals from the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), which is the NEPIO, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and the Nawah Energy Company, operator of Barakah nuclear power plant.

“The exchange of information was dynamic and demonstrated how the UAE has progressed from being a ‘new’ nuclear energy newcomer to now being a ‘mature’ nuclear energy newcomer, who is on the verge of fuel load for our first nuclear power plant,” said Philip Beeley, Director of the Nuclear Technology Centre at Khalifa University. “The dialogue between other potential newcomer states and our lecturing staff was a rewarding experience, as was the guidance and management from the IAEA.”

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