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IAEA Sees Safety Commitment at UAE's First Nuclear Power Plant Ahead of Planned Operation Start

Barakah, United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates Flag

United Arab Emirates flag. (Photo: Paolo Rosa/Flickr)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts observed a commitment to safety by the operator of the United Arab Emirates’ first Nuclear Power Plant, ahead of its planned start of operations. The team also identified areas where further improvements may be achieved as the plant prepares for full operations.

The Pre-Operational Safety Review Team (Pre-OSART) concluded an 18-day mission on 3 October to assess operational safety at the site in Barakah, Abu Dhabi, where the country has engaged Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO) to construct and commission four 1400 MW pressurized water reactors. The operator is Nawah Energy Company, a joint venture between Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and KEPCO.

Pre-OSART missions aim to improve operational safety by objectively assessing safety performance using the IAEA’s safety standards and proposing recommendations for improvement where appropriate.

“Constructing a large, modern nuclear power plant in a country with no previous nuclear experience requires senior leaders to establish a sustained commitment to nuclear safety and for every level of the organization to adopt it,” said Team Leader Peter Tarren, Head of the IAEA’s Operational Safety Section. “The Pre-OSART team has observed that commitment and has been able to offer practical ways in which it can be enhanced.”

The 15-member team comprised experts from the Finland, France, Hungary, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, as well as four IAEA officials.

The review covered the areas of leadership and management for safety; training and qualification; operations; maintenance; technical support; operating experience; radiation protection; chemistry; emergency preparedness and response; accident management; human, technology and organizational interactions; and commissioning.

The team identified a number of good practices that will be shared with the nuclear industry globally, including:

  • A leadership development programme ensuring that the multi-cultural, multi-national nature of the staff is maintained and leveraged to build strong teams with a focus on safe operation.
  • The development of the UAE National Qualification Authority (NQA) for nuclear positions, which will enhance and streamline training and qualification of employees.
  • The establishment of good relations with off-site organizations and other interested parties, allowing for rapid communications and actions should an event occur at the plant.
  • Main Control Room (MCR) simulators creatively designed and cost effectively implemented to meet demanding plant training schedules.

The mission made a number of recommendations to improve operational safety, including:

  • The plant should reinforce the effectiveness of managers by ensuring that their expectations are met at the point of work.
  • The plant should improve oversight of maintenance activities performed by contractors in order to ensure equipment safety and reliability.
  • The plant should ensure timely development, validation and approval of a comprehensive surveillance programme and implementation procedures.
  • The plant should enhance configuration control over design changes done by the contractor during construction and commissioning to ensure that all design changes are reflected in operations and maintenance procedures, and training.

The team provided a draft of the report to the plant’s management. The plant management and the UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation have an opportunity to make factual comments on the draft, which will be reviewed by the IAEA. The final report will be submitted to the UAE Government within three months.

Plant management said it would address the areas identified for improvement and requested a follow-up OSART mission in about 18 months.


General information about OSART missions can be found on the IAEA Website.  An OSART mission is designed as a review of programmes and activities essential to operational safety. It is not a regulatory inspection, nor is it a design review or a substitute for an exhaustive assessment of the plant’s overall safety status. This was the 196th mission of the OSART programme, which began in 1982.

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