1 July 2018, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: The United Arab Emirates hosted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Phase 3 Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission from 24 to 1 July. The aim of the mission was to assist the UAE by providing a review of the nation's overall nuclear energy infrastructure. The UAE is the first country to implement and achieve Milestone 3 of the IAEA's ‘Milestones' approach to nuclear energy infrastructure development.
An international team of ten IAEA and international experts reviewed the UAE's development since the last INIR mission conducted in 2011. The team focused on the conditions required to achieve Milestone 3, through assessing 19 infrastructure issues as outlined in the IAEA's ‘Milestones' approach, a comprehensive methodology that guides countries and organizations to work in a systematic way towards the introduction of peaceful nuclear energy.
The mission team, led by the IAEA's Head of Nuclear Infrastructure Development, Milko Kovachev, is preparing a Phase 3 INIR mission report which takes into account all facets of the nation's nuclear energy program. In preparing the report, the team met with UAE stakeholders including the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), Nawah Energy Company (Nawah), National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA), and the Critical Infrastructure & Coastal Protection Authority (CICPA).
Specific aspects of the UAE's nuclear energy infrastructure evaluated by the IAEA mission included: emergency planning and preparedness; human resource development; regulatory and legal frameworks; nuclear safety and radiation protection; physical and cyber security; nuclear fuel cycle and waste management; environmental protection; funding and procurement practices; and safeguards implemented as part of the UAE nuclear programme. In addition to the meetings, evidence collection, and evaluation of every aspect of the UAE's program, the IAEA mission team studied all previously conducted IAEA review services in order to deliver a truly comprehensive assessment of the nation's nuclear energy infrastructure and provide relevant recommendations to UAE stakeholders.
H.E. Ambassador Hamad Alkaabi, UAE's Permanent Representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, said: “The UAE is rapidly moving forward with the development of its peaceful nuclear energy sector. The successful conclusion of the Phase 3 INIR mission is a testament to the UAE's commitment to upholding the highest international standards of safety, security, and transparency as we approach the commissioning of the nation's first nuclear energy plant.”
“The extraordinary progress of the UAE's peaceful nuclear energy program is a result of our continuous collaboration with an extensive network of international organizations whose members include some of the world's most renowned professionals in nuclear energy. Our close relationship with the IAEA, as well as our cooperation with international nuclear energy organizations and regulators has allowed us to rise to the forefront of the peaceful nuclear energy industry,” added H.E. Alkaabi.
Milko Kovachev, the Head of the IAEA's Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section, said: “The UAE has made steady progress since the mission in 2011 which has been emphasised by the fact that the IAEA team has identified seven high quality practices in relation to the 19 elements analysed. The Review team has developed some recommendations which if implemented could further enhance the nuclear infrastructure in the country and support the development of a safe, transparent and reliable peaceful, nuclear energy program.”
Among the seven good practices that may benefit other countries implementing a nuclear power programme was the request by FANR to develop an Operational Readiness Report, as well as extensive self-assessment carried out by Nawah. The IAEA also praised the development of a strong engineering team within Nawah that will later become the Design Authority of the plant.
In addition the IAEA issued a total of nine recommendations and seven suggestions, as well as identifying three key observations. These included the need for ENEC and Nawah to reach operational readiness before the fuel load of the first unit, and for the UAE to work towards its 2016 policy on the long-term management and disposal of spent nuclear and radioactive waste. The IAEA also highlighted the proactive national coordination, legal and regulatory review, and research and development programmes that would ensure long-term sustainability.
The IAEA ‘Milestones' approach, the progress of which the INIR missions are designed to assess, is documented in the IAEA publication Milestones in the Development of National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power. The approach includes three progressive phases, which a country has to complete before it will be ready to operate its first nuclear power plant. Each of these phases is marked by a specific milestone at which the progress and success of the development effort can be evaluated and a decision made to move on to the next phase.
This Review Mission comes before the issuance of the operating license which will be done by the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR), once FANR determines that the commissioning of the first reactor at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant can commence.
The first phase of the approach involves pre-project activities and considerations, and is concluded upon the achievement of Milestone 1 – Ready to make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear energy program. The second phase involves preparatory work for the contracting and construction of a nuclear energy plant, and is completed upon the achievement of Milestone 2 – Ready to invite bids/negotiate a contract for the first nuclear energy plant. The UAE was evaluated by an IAEA INIR mission team on Phase 1 and Phase 2 in 2011. The final and third phase of the approach involves activities to implement the first nuclear energy plant and is concluded upon the achievement of Milestone 3 – Ready to commission and operate the first nuclear energy plant.