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  /  Architecture   /  Nuclear Power in the UAE             

Nuclear Power in the UAE             

The second reactor at the UAE’s civil nuclear power plant in Al Barakah commenced commercial operations today supplying electricity to the national grid. Combined with unit 1, which went commercial in April 2021 the UAE’s grid is now supplied by 2800 MW of nuclear energy, and the country is now halfway to achieving the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC)’s commitment to supply up to a quarter of the nation’s electricity needs.

In the country’s drive towards its’ programmed decarbonisation of the energy sector, as it strives to meet ambitious Net Zero targets by 2050 and to secure national energy security, this shift towards the generation of clean electricity sets the nations’ economy in a move away from the traditional oil and gas whilst laying the foundations for new energy technologies that are needed to replace fossil fuels.

It is estimated that once the plant achieves full capacity, the nuclear power produced will prevent 22.4 million tons of carbon emissions annually and will offer a cost saving of 75% for electricity generation when compared to gas generated power. It is expected that by 2025, 85% of Abu Dhabi’s total power supply will be nuclear generated.

Construction of the Barakah plant commenced in 2012, and upon full completion it will be one of the largest in the world and will be one of the first to fully incorporate Korean designed APR-1400 reactors, an evolutionary Generation III, Advanced Light Water reactor with a 40% increase in net electrical power generated per unit compared to any previous generation of reactor. The design life of APR-1400’s is increased by 50% to 60 years and incorporates enhanced safety features compared to the previous OPR-1000 units.

Each reactor core is designed for an 18-month operating cycle and contains 241 fuel assemblies of 236 fuel rods containing uranium dioxide. The UAE’s reactors have been adapted from the original design to suit the country’s specific climate and to meet the requirements of the UAE nuclear safety regulator (FANR). ENEC confirm that these design modifications include:

  • Larger pumps, heat exchangers and pipes to increase the water flow rate of the cooling systems to manage the higher seawater temperatures in the Gulf.
  • Seawater intake and plant cooling systems designed to ensure compliance with the Environmental Agency – Abu Dhabi’s (EAD) standards for changes in Gulf water temperature near the plant.
  • More ventilation and air conditioning to counter the effects of higher temperatures, drier air and high volumes of airborne sand and dust, and
  • A refined intake screen design to help protect local fish populations during operations.

In 2012, tangram were appointed to deliver ENEC’s Emergency Response Centre, a campus of buildings in the Western Desert to support the power plant’ operations. Comprising of an Emergency Operations Centre, Emergency Response Facility, Public Information Centre, and a Radio Chemistry Laboratory – RadLAB.

This laboratory was the first building of the campus to be completed in 2015, designed to measure and analyse the metrics for the benchmarking and subsequent conducting of environmental and radiological rapid assessment methods for emergency response. Achieved through the modelling of the dispersion and transfer of radionuclides in the environment. Its’ completion was critical in benchmarking the existing environmental levels and for commencing the timeline for the very first fuel burning cycle and ultimately the production of civil nuclear energy for the first time ever in the Arab world.

More detail on the design of tangrams’ campus can be found here (pls link to the ENEC project in the projects section sent on 12th)

And information on the Barakah plant and the UAE’s new nuclear energy programme can be found here (https://www.enec.gov.ae/discover/how-nuclear-energy-works/what-does-a-nuclear-energy-plant-look-like-/)

Tags #nuclearpower #cleanenergy #decarbonisation #barakahpowerplant #enec

Sandra Woodall

This blog was created by tangram’s Design Director and founder of tangramTERRA Ms Sandra Woodall, a passionate environmentalist, architect, urbanist, researcher, pre-covid travelholic and baker of vegan treats. She is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), and the Academy of Urbanism (AoU). Sandra is an award-winning designer who leads our MENA region studio who were recognised as the “2019 MENA Architecture Firm of the Year” by the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED), and who have received accolades including six international sustainable design awards for five different projects in four years. She is the RIBA Regional Ambassador for Sustainability, promoting and developing UK design and management skills across the MENA region, and is the UAE country representative on the RIBA Gulf Chapter. She founded, curates and presents the Chapters’ ongoing “Sustainable Development Series” to share awareness, knowledge, skills, tools and best practice with built environment professionals across the GCC and to showcase projects, methods, procedures and strategies to empower and equip us all to meet the challenges faced in delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals across the region.

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