Tag Archives: UAE nuclear power

The Unsellables and the Super-Acheivers

 Barakah nuclear-power plant under construction in Abu Dhabi 2017

THE Barakah nuclear-power plant under construction in Abu Dhabi will never attract the attention that the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in neighbouring Dubai does, but it is an engineering feat nonetheless. It is using three times as much concrete as the world’s tallest building, and six times the amount of steel. Remarkably, its first reactor may start producing energy in the first half of this year—on schedule and (its South Korean developers insist) on budget. That would be a towering achievement.

In much of the world, building a nuclear-power plant looks like a terrible business prospect. Two recent additions to the world’s nuclear fleet, in Argentina and America, took 33 and 44 years to erect. Of 55 plants under construction, the Global Nuclear Power database reckons almost two-thirds are behind schedule .  The delays lift costs, and make nuclear less competitive with other sources of electricity, such as gas, coal and renewables.
Not one of the two technologies that were supposed to revolutionise the supply of nuclear energy—the European Pressurised Reactor, or EPR, and the AP1000 from America’s Westinghouse—has yet been installed, despite being conceived early this century. In Finland, France and China, all the EPRs under construction are years behind schedule. The main hope for salvaging their reputation—and the nuclear business of EDF, the French utility that owns the technology—is the Hinkley Point C project in Britain, which by now looks a lot like a Hail Mary pass.

Meanwhile, delays with the Westinghouse AP1000 have caused mayhem at Toshiba, its owner. The Japanese firm may announce write-downs in February of up to $6bn on its American nuclear business. As nuclear assets are probably unsellable, it is flogging parts of its core, microchip business instead.

YThis month, Oregon-based NuScale Power became the first American firm to apply for certification of a small modular reactor (SMR) design with America’s nuclear regulators.

“Clearly the momentum seems to be shifting away from traditional suppliers,” says William Magwood, director-general of the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency. Both small and large reactors are required. In places like America and Europe, where electricity demand is growing slowly, there is rising interest in small, flexible ones. In fast-growing markets like China, large nuclear plants make more economic sense.
If the South Koreans succeed with their first foreign nuclear programme in Abu Dhabi, the reason is likely to be consistency. Nuclear accidents such as Three-Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 caused a long hiatus in nuclear construction in America and Europe. But South Korea has invested in nuclear power for four decades, using its own technology since the 1990s, says Lee Jong-ho, an executive at Korea Electric Power (KEPCO), which leads the consortium building Barakah. It does not suffer from the skills shortages that bedevil nuclear construction in the West.

KEPCO always works with the same, familiar suppliers and construction firms hailing from Korea Inc. By contrast, both the EPR and AP1000, first-of-a-kind technologies with inevitable teething problems, have suffered from being contracted out to global engineering firms. Also, South Korea and China both keep nuclear building costs low through repetition and standardisation, says the World Nuclear Association (WNA), an industry group. It estimates that South Korean capital costs have remained fairly stable in the past 20 years, while they have almost tripled in France and America.

Excerpts The nuclear options: How to build a nuclear-power plant, Economist, Jan. 28 2017, at 57

 

Nuclear Energy in the Gulf: a response to Iran

IAEA's  Amano wiht UAE Hammadi

Fuelled by rising energy demand and depleting oil and gas resources, nuclear energy has gained strong momentum in the GCC, particularly in countries like the UAE.  The country has lofty ambitions to generate up to 25 per cent of its electricity needs – or 5.6GW – through nuclear means by 2020.  Abu Dhabi began construction of its first nuclear reactor, Barakah 1, in July 2012, and it is in the process of building three more plants.  Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, the body responsible for the project, announced in February 2014 that the first two plants are on schedule and are up to 35 per cent complete.

Barakah Unit 1 is scheduled to enter commercial operations in 2017 while Unit 2 is scheduled for operations in 2018, pending regulatory approvals. The third and fourth units are slated to begin commercial operations in 2019 and 2020 respectively.  Lady Barbara Judge, a member of the UAE nuclear programme’s International Advisory Board and former chairman of the UK’s Atomic Energy Authority, says she is confident that the programme will be recognised as the best new built nuclear power project of the century.

“The UAE has a ruler who is very stable and who is very interested in the diversification of energy supply, it doesn’t have the political problems that you have in other countries, it understands the planning process about where to put the power plant, it has got good sites, it has an independent regulator and the country is building schools to develop skills and training among locals,” she explains.

Along with the UAE, another Gulf country that is actively pursuing a nuclear programme is Saudi Arabia.  The Kingdom’s nuclear ambitions are substantially larger. It hopes to become the Middle East’s largest nuclear power producer over the next 20 years at an estimated cost of roughly $100 billion, with plans to build 16 nuclear power plants that will generate 17.6GW of power progressively to 2032.  Saudi’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (Ka-Care), which focuses on energy diversification, has set up an independent regulator, the Saudi Arabian Atomic Regulatory Authority, to oversee the Kingdom’s civil atomic energy programme.   Ka-Care is also in the process of creating the Nuclear Holding Company to serve as the private sector arm of the Kingdom in designing and operating nuclear power plants and research reactors.  Saudi Arabia has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with several countries including Japan, France and Jordan with Ka-Care negotiating with Russia, Czech Republic, UK and the USA for “further cooperation.”

The country hopes to call for preliminary bids for its first nuclear reactor in 2014, say officials. Construction on the first reactor is expected to begin in 2017 and is slated for completion by 2022.  Similar to the UAE, the Kingdom has a stable government, huge coffers and vast land slots – all extremely suitable for nuclear power generation, opines Lady Judge.

However, nuclear energy may not necessarily be the best option for the GCC region, states Mohammed Atif, area manager, Energy Advisory, Middle East at DNV GL – Energy.  “A reasonable diversification of fuels is always beneficial for a region in order to reduce risks and price volatility,” he says…..“Nuclear power plants generally tend to generate electricity only, whereas the GCC is accustomed to co-generation where power plants generate electricity and also desalinate water. Unless the system adopts nuclear technology which incorporates desalination technology, then a challenge remains in terms of ensuring sufficient desalination capacity.”

An Oxford report on nuclear power production in the GCC published in December 2012 also pointed out that nuclear power generation could prove an expensive option for GCC states.  “The substantial initial investment costs, coupled with the high expected level of long run variable costs, is unlikely to render nuclear power cost effective vis-à-vis conventional oil and gas fired power plants in the region,” it says.  The existing absence of cost-recovering power tariffs throughout the GCC already renders effective cost recovery for nuclear power unlikely, implying a substantial bill in the form of nuclear power subsidies to be picked up by GCC governments.”  There are also other hidden costs, such as national and regional security concerns and the future disposal of nuclear waste.

“And the acquisition of nuclear technology by GCC states, albeit for civilian purposes, provides fuel to those critics of nuclear power in the region who fear a nuclear arms race in the Gulf should Iran pursue a nuclear weapons programme in the future.  “All these concerns make nuclear power a potentially costly option for the GCC,” the report cautions.  While initial costs are sizeable, Lady Judge believes that they can be recovered during the long-life of nuclear plants – estimated at around 60 years. She also affirms that energy subsidies are bound to fall away.

Excerpt from Aarti Nagraj, Nuclear Power: Boon Or Bane For The GCC?, Gulf Business, Apr. 19, 2014

United Arab Emirates Push Ahead with Nuclear Energy Plans

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced today the results of the nuclear fuel procurement competition launched in July 2011. The goal of the fuel competition is to create a strategy to cover supply for the first 15 years of operations.  A portfolio of leading international nuclear fuel suppliers have been contracted to provide a series of nuclear fuel services to cover ENEC’s requirements. The resulting fuel strategy guarantees security of supply, quality assurance of fuel-related materials and competitive commercial terms to protect the interests of the UAE peaceful nuclear energy program by providing volume flexibilities and the ability to adapt to changing market conditions.

The following services have been contracted by ENEC:

• Purchase of natural uranium concentrates

• Conversion services (in which uranium concentrates are converted to material ready for enrichment)

• Enrichment services (in which the converted material is enriched to a level that is used in the fuel for nuclear energy plants)

• Purchase of enriched uranium product

The enriched uranium will be supplied to KEPCO Nuclear Fuels (KNF), which will manufacture the fuel assemblies for use in the four planned UAE units. KNF is a member of ENEC’s Prime Contract consortium, led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Starting in 2014 – 2015, a total of six leading companies in the nuclear fuel supply industry will participate in the ENEC fuel supply program. ConverDyn (U.S.) will provide conversion services; Uranium One, Inc. (Canada) will provide natural uranium, URENCO (headquartered in the U.K) will provide enrichment services; and Rio Tinto (headquartered in the U.K) will provide natural uranium. TENEX (Russia) will supply uranium concentrates, conversion services and enrichment services. AREVA (France) will provide uranium concentrates, conversion services and enrichment services.

The six contracts are valued at approximately US$3 billion according to ENEC forecasts. The contracted fuel will enable the Barakah plant to generate up to 450 million MWh for a period of 15 years starting in 2017, when the first nuclear energy unit is scheduled to begin providing safe, clean, reliable and efficient electricity to the UAE.

“The completion of the fuel supply strategy is a key achievement to ENEC’s program and a clear example of how the UAE continues to set the gold standard for implementing a peaceful nuclear energy program,” said ENEC’s Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Al Hammadi. “These contracts will provide ENEC with long-term security of supply, high quality fuel and favorable pricing and commercial terms. We are also pleased that this marks the start of long-term commercial relationships with companies that have earned excellent reputations in the industry.”

The ENEC fuel procurement strategy is guided by the Government of the United Arab Emirates’ support for international non-proliferation efforts. That support was detailed in a nuclear energy policy document released by the government in April 2008 that outlined a series of commitments, including the decision to forgo domestic enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel. That commitment was ratified by UAE Federal Law in 2009.

The procurement competition was the result of an extensive year-long process that included initial discussions between ENEC and international nuclear fuel suppliers. It was conducted in line with the industry’s best practices, under which companies contract for the various aspects of the fuel cycle as a means to ensure security of supply, high quality fuel and commercial advantage. In addition, this process will enable ENEC to build a strategic commercial capability in nuclear fuel procurement. The comprehensive analysis performed by ENEC included a peer review system to ensure that the procurement process was performed according to global standards.

ENEC expects to return to the market at various times to take advantage of favorable market conditions and to strengthen its security of supply position.  ENEC is planning to build four 1,400-MW nuclear energy units at the recently approved site, Barakah, in the Western Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, in order to provide the electricity needed to fuel the economic growth of the UAE. In July, ENEC received regulatory approval from both the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation for the construction of the first two nuclear energy units in Barakah.  Pending further regulatory approvals, the first unit is scheduled to begin delivering electricity to the grid in 2017. The remaining three units are scheduled to come on line in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation Awards Nuclear Fuel Supply Contracts, Nuclear Street News, Aug 15 2012

See also UAE goes Forward with its Nuclear Energy Program

The Quiet Nuclearization of the Middle East, UAE

For the Fear of Iran: The Nuclear Renaissance in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia is pressing ahead with its ambitious plans to develop nuclear power to meet rising electricity demand and save oil for export.  But the outlook for other Arab states is less promising because of political turmoil and a lack of financial resources.  The Saudis have built a foreign assets cushion of around $500 billion from oil exports. It has used this immense wealth to buy its way out of trouble; for instance, heading off pro-democracy protests with massive social spending in recent years.  But, the Middle East Economic Digest observed, “a more serious set of challenges now faces the kingdom that threaten to be even more destabilizing.  “Inefficient and wasteful energy consumption, coupled with a rising population, is leading the kingdom to burn even more of its natural resources at home rather than selling them abroad and adding to the proceeds of the half-trillion-dollar cash pile.  “Unless action is taken, the kingdom could find it needs the oil price to be $320 a barrel by 2030 just to balance the budget,” the weekly, published in the United Arab Emirates, warned.  Nuclear power is seen as the solution. But, as MEED stressed, “time is of the essence.”

For one thing, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt, have no wish to lag any further behind Iran and Israel in developing nuclear technologies.  In 2010, the King Abdallah Center for Atomic and Renewable Energy, known as KAcare, was established to oversee the gulf state’s nuclear program under its president, Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, who was accorded ministerial powers.  KAcare consultant Ibrahim Babelli said in 2010 it took 3.4 million barrels of oil equivalent a day — known as boe/d — to power electricity generation. This is expected to more than double by 2028 to 8.3 million boe/d.

The aim of the Saudis’ $100 billion nuclear program is to achieve an electricity output of 110 gigawatts by 2032.  The Financial Times reports that in 2009, the latest data available, Saudi electricity capacity was 52GW from 79 power stations.  At least 16 nuclear reactors, each costing around $7 billion, are planned, with the first producing by 2019.  Some estimates state the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, will burn as much as 1.2 million barrels of oil daily on electricity production, almost double the 2010 total, to meet domestic and industrial demand.  This is crucial, as the Saudis are driving to build an industrial infrastructure to sustain the economy when the oil fields run down. Some have already begun to decline.  For total reliance on nuclear power, Babelli says, 40-60 reactors would be needed by 2030. That’s four-six reactors per year from 2020.  “That’s stretching it,” he said. “The answer is an energy mix.”

That means fossil fuels will still be needed, probably as the primary energy source, while wind, solar and nuclear power capabilities are developed. KAcare is developing solar power projects that MEES estimates should produce 41GW within 20 years with geothermal and waste-to-energy systems providing 4GW.  The Emirates, which launched its nuclear energy program in 2009, is the most advanced in the Arab world, with Saudi Arab running second.  The United Arab Emirates’ $30 billion program — $10 billion more than originally planned — is smaller in scale than that in Saudi Arabia.  Both states benefit from political stability and vast financial reserves. Other regional states are less fortunate.

Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan all have announced plans to invest in nuclear energy to crank up electricity generation but all have lagged behind or scrapped their programs because of lack of funds or foreign investment.  “Kuwait has the cash,” MEED reported, “but it’s been through eight governments in the past six years.”  Sunni-ruled Bahrain, an island state neighboring Saudi Arabia, “continues to face destabilizing protests by its majority Shiite population and its budget is already in deficit.”  Egypt remains convulsed by the political turmoil that ensued following the February 2011 overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, its economy sagging dangerously.  In Jordan, heavily reliant on foreign aid, parliament recently scrapped nuclear plans as “hazardous and costly.”  Failure to start boosting electricity generation for burgeoning populations in the coming decades almost certainly will mean more political upheavals.

Saudis, Emirates push nuclear power plans, UPI,July 26, 2012

See also the Quiet Nuclearization of the Middle East

Nuclear Race in the Middle East

The UAE Goes Forward with its Nuclear Energy Program

EnergySolutions has been awarded a four year contract to design and supply waste management systems for the United Arab Emirates’(UAE) nuclear energy program. The program will see a Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO)-led consortium build four reactors for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), with the reactors based on the Shin-Kori APR1400 plants, which will serve as the ‘reference plants’ for the UAE’s new build plans.  Under the contract EnergySolutions will supply liquid waste processing equipment, including ion exchange and reverse osmosis systems, which will serve to significantly reduce levels of contamination and waste.

“This contract award follows EnergySolutions’ capture of two similar deals in China and sees the Middle East join the USA and Canada, Europe, and Asia as markets for the company’s sector-leading technologies and expertise in nuclear waste processing solutions”, said Mark Morant, President, Global Commercial Group, EnergySolutions. “We are leading the way in both the clean-up of old reactors and the design of innovative waste systems for new units and we look forward to working with KEPCO & ENEC to make a success of the UAE’s exciting new build program.”

EnergySolutions has over 15 years’ experience designing and delivering liquid waste management systems to Korean customers and other Korean reactor sites where our equipment is operating include Shin-Wolsong 1-2, Shin-Kori 1-2, 3-4, Kori 1-2, 3-4, Youngwang 1-2, 3-4, and Ulchin 1-2, 3-4. The Chinese wins were at the Yangjiang and Haiyang reactor sites.

EnergySolutions Wins Major New Build Contract in the United Arab Emirates, Press Release of Energy Solutions, Feb. 23, 2012

See also Nuclear Race in the Middle East

The Quiet Nuclearization of the Middle East, UAE

The Braka-1 nuclear plant is slated to operate in 2017, with its three sister plants following at one-year intervals, said William Travers, the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation’s (FANR) director-general.Travers added the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team presented its initial findings in Abu Dhabi on its ten-day mission during which they found “good practices in the regulatory system; yet with some recommendations and suggestions for further improvement.  “The review is of strategic value which results from an extensive dialogue that engenders common commitment to improving the quality and effectiveness of technical cooperation between the UAE and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency].  “We have been working hard to establish FANR as a world-class nuclear safety regulator,” he said, pointing out inviting the IAEA’s peer review service is one important way to progress.

Carl-Magnus Larsson, IRRS team leader said: “Among the recommendations to improve the UAE regulatory system were: The UAE government should clarify roles and responsibilities of emergency response organisations as soon as possible.”  He added: “The UAE should conclude and implement a national policy and strategy for radioactive waste management.”  The comprehensive IAEA review was not an inspection or an audit and was based on a detailed self-assessment FANR has prepared over months.  “The mission included visits to the proposed Braka nuclear power plant site in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate, to the medical and industrial facilities as well as meetings with other key entities involved in the nuclear programme,” said Larsson.

The UAE will select a uranium supplier in the first half of next year for its $20 billion (Dh73.5 billion) nuclear energy programme, Hamad Al Ka’abi, the UAE’s permanent representative to the IAEA told Gulf News earlier after the Global Energy Markets: Changes in the Strategic Landscape conference.

“Our nuclear policy states that we would favour sending back the spent fuel to the country that supplied it,” Al Ka’abi pointed out, adding: “If that is not feasible, we would consider storing it in the UAE, in underground storage, for example. Nuclear safety will be the core of our plans and fundamental to the success and the long-term stability of the UAE programme.”

By Shehab Al Makahleh, Nuclear regulator wins accolades from review team Braka-1 facility expected to open in 2017, GulfNews.com, Dec. 25, 2011