Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Are nuclear energy plants safe?

Yes. The performance records of approximately 450 nuclear energy facilities operating in more than 30 countries have demonstrated that nuclear energy is safe. 

The World Association of Nuclear Operators tracks data about plant performance, including safety system performance, fuel reliability and industrial accident rates. The performance data consistently show positive results. In the UAE, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) plays an essential, and entirely independent role in ensuring that the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is safe, secure and reliable through robust regulation and oversight.

The Barakah plant follows international best practice and uses a defense-in-depth safety approach. This includes:

  • Multiple physical barriers that protect against accidental radiation release.
  • Multiples layers of redundant and diverse plant safety systems which ensure that the reactor operates normally and shuts down automatically if necessary.
  • The emergency response plan, which is regulated, tested and exercised with FANR, and has been reviewed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of the Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) in 2015 and again in 2019.

After thorough review and evaluation, FANR has granted approval for the Barakah site, the construction of Units 1&2 and Units 3&4, as well as the operation of Unit 1, among other regulatory licenses.

  1. Will the Barakah plant impact the environment?

ENEC and Nawah are committed to operating the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in an environmentally responsible manner throughout construction and operation. The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) monitors all relevant activity and granted approval for the construction and operation of the plant.


Technology and Safety

  1. What type of reactors is the UAE using at Barakah?

The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant consists of four APR1400 nuclear reactors. The APR1400 is a proven technology that meets the highest international standards for safety, performance and environmental impact.

The current APR1400 design was developed by the Korean nuclear industry under the leadership of the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) over a period of 10 years, and has been licensed by the country’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. The design is also by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) for use in the UAE, and certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the United States.

  1. Why did ENEC select KEPCO and the APR 1400 for its program?

ENEC awarded the Prime Contract to KEPCO, one of the world leaders in safety, plant reliability and efficiency. ENEC selected KEPCO as the Prime Contractor following a stringent, year-long evaluation process that was led by a 75-member committee of international experts. These experts evaluated a number of criteria, including safety, ability to deliver the project, the commercial offer and a commitment to human resource development. The Contract is for the construction and commissioning of four APR1400 design nuclear reactor units.

The reference plant for Barakah is located at Shin Kori Units 3 and 4 in South Korea, and is the first plant in the world using the APR1400 technology. Shin Kori 3 entered commercial operation in December 2016 and Shin Kori 4 followed in August 2019. The experience our Korean partners brings from the same construction and commissioning processes successfully conducted on Shin Kori 3 and 4 has been invaluable to the success of the Barakah project.

The APR1400 design was developed by the Korean nuclear industry under the leadership of the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) over a period of 10 years, and has been licensed by the country’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. The design is also by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) for use in the UAE and in 2019, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission certified the APR1400 reactor design for use in the USA. This demonstrates that the design meets the rigorous standards of three national regulatory bodies, including the NRC, which has over 60 years of experience in monitoring and regulating the nuclear industry.

  1. What are the safety design features of the nuclear reactor?

Nuclear energy plants are extremely robust in design. Every nuclear reactor has multiple barriers for safety. This is called the defense-in-depth safety approach. This includes:

  • Multiple physical barriers that protect against accidental radiation release.
  • Multiples layers of redundant and diverse plant safety systems which ensure that the reactor operates normally and shuts down automatically if necessary.
  • The emergency response plan, which is regulated, tested and exercised with FANR.

Furthermore, Barakah’s safety design features meet all of FANR’s regulations as described in FANR-REG-03 – Design of Nuclear Power Plants.

  1. Is the Barakah plant safe against accidental or deliberate large airplane crash?

The Barakah plant has been designed and constructed to withstand the impact of aircraft.

FANR’s Safety Evaluation Report on the construction license for Barakah Units 1&2, and that for Units 3&4, conclude that the Barakah plant “can withstand the deliberate impact of a large commercial aircraft”.

  1. Do the reactors at Barakah have a ‘core catcher’?

As a Generation III+ reactor, the APR1400 safety systems are designed to prevent or mitigate severe accidents. The design incorporates passive safety systems which work to ensure safe reactor shutdown, removal of decay heat, and the prevention of radioactive releases. The APR1400 has been licensed by FANR in the UAE, Korea’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, as well as by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Barakah plant design contains all of the safety features that provide equivalent functionality to the ‘core catcher’ design. KEPCO and ENEC submitted extensive documentation and analysis to FANR, who conducted their own assessments to verify the safety of the plant design in the highly unlikely event of an accident and were satisfied that the design meets all modern safety design parameters. FANR’s issuance of the construction licenses for Units 1&2 and Units 3&4, as well as the operation license of Unit 1 demonstrates that the Barakah plant meets the UAE’s stringent safety standards.

  1. Are there cracks in the reactor containment buildings at Barakah?

In 2018, ENEC’s rigorous Quality Assurance (QA) process identified concrete voids during the construction phase of Unit 3, and minor voids were found in Unit 2. No voids were found in Units 1 and 4. These concrete voids are not ‘cracks’ and no ‘cracks’ have been found at the Barakah plant.

A repair plan was developed by ENEC and KEPCO for both Units. FANR reviewed the repair plan and all repair works are now complete and approved on both units, in accordance with the highest international standards of safety, security and quality.

  1. How are you sure that your repairs on the cracks will be safe?

The repair work for Units 2 and 3 has been completed. To demonstrate the safety of the containment building of each of our reactors, we conduct a Structural Integrity Test, in which we increase the pressure inside the building to above what is expected during operation.

The successful completion of the Structural Integrity Test (SIT) on Unit 2 in March 2019 clearly demonstrates the integrity and robustness of the structure in terms of force and leak tightness, and the structure’s ability to perform safely under normal and extraordinary circumstances. The same test will be carried out on Unit 3 to ensure the highest standards of safety are met.

  1. Were faulty valves installed at Barakah?

There has been no installation of faulty valves. ENEC publicly announced a non-performance of the Pilot Operated Safety Relief Valves (POSRVs), highlighting that this had also been publicly disclosed by the International Advisory Board as part of its reporting.

In 2019, ENEC confirmed that the POSRVs had cleared all safety tests and the results shared with the UAE regulator FANR.

FANR holds ENEC to implement the highest international safety standards and the resolution of the POSRV performance issues was a prerequisite for issuing the Unit 1 Operating License. ENEC clearly demonstrated that the valves meet the highest standards of quality and FANR issued the Operating License for Unit 1 on 17 February 2020.

  1. Isn’t the water temperature in the Arabian Gulf too high to cool the reactors?

The comparably high cooling water temperature was investigated and studies found that the effect of this is negligible. Two measures that ENEC implemented for the plant design at Barakah are the use of larger pumps, heat exchangers and pipes to increase the water flow rate of the cooling systems to deal with higher seawater temperatures in the Gulf, and a modified breakwater to ensure that the discharge and intake structures are at an increased distance from each other to avoid re-circulation of warmer water.

Furthermore, with Unit 1 now operational, it is confirmed that ambient water temperatures around the plant are well within the limits set by the EAD, with no environmental impact to surrounding marine waters. 

  1. Did KEPCO deliver counterfeit or fraudulent items to Barakah, similar to those found in Korea?

No. ENEC holds its suppliers and vendors to the highest quality standards to ensure alignment with international best practices. For any safety-related and major procurement, ENEC has to review every evaluation and give approval on it. In addition, ENEC’s quality assurance structure requires an extensive analysis of these components. We have stringent Quality Assurance and Quality Surveillance standards and measures that are applied across our entire supply chain. Our Counterfeit, Fraudulent, Suspected Items (CFSI) program is aligned with global best practice.


Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management

  1. Does the UAE have any plans to enrich uranium for its own fuel?

No. It is enshrined in the UAE Nuclear Law that the UAE will not enrich uranium, and this is reinforced in the UAE Policy on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  Following a comprehensive procurement process, ENEC entered into contracts with six suppliers to provide materials and services, including uranium enrichment. KEPCO Nuclear Fuels (KNF) in South Korea fabricates the fuel assemblies which are then shipped to the UAE following all regulations and international best practices.

  1. Will the UAE reprocess used nuclear fuel?

No. In addition to forgoing domestic enrichment, another part of the UAE’s commitment to non-proliferation is to forgo the reprocessing of nuclear fuel.

The UAE is a signatory of all relevant international agreements and treaties for non-proliferation, and is a member of the relevant organizations and regimes. The UAE also signed a 123 Agreement with the United States of America, which incorporates non-proliferation commitments.  

  1. What will the UAE do with the fuel once it is removed from a reactor?

The Federal Government of the UAE is developing its long-term storage policy for spent fuel, but ENEC must ensure the safe disposal of solid radioactive waste in accordance with the laws of the UAE and the legislation of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The UAE is a signatory of the IAEA Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management and submits a regular report to the organization to describe its efforts on the steps taken to fulfil its obligations as a Contracting Party to the Convention.

The UAE is well ahead in developing its plans, with storage needs not required for at least two decades, as the Barakah plant can safely store waste for the first 20 years of operations.

  1. How are you going to transport fuel? Isn’t there a risk that it will damage the environment?

Fuel is transported in adherence to the highest standards of quality and safety, in accordance with the recommendations of the IAEA and FANR, and safeguarded by CICPA. The UAE signed the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material in 2003 and adheres to its rules. Also, FANR is responsible for issuing four separate licenses to ENEC and Nawah for the import, transportation, handling and storage of nuclear fuel. FANR also carefully reviewed and certified the shipping casks for fresh nuclear fuel used by ENEC to transport fuel assemblies in the UAE.

Countries around the world have safely transported radioactive materials, including fresh and used nuclear fuel, for decades. The first nuclear fuel assemblies for the Barakah plant were successfully received and safely stored at the plant in 2017.


Security & Non-Proliferation

  1. Is the UAE planning on developing nuclear weapons, and would this even be possible?

The UAE Government has made its peaceful objectives unambiguous. The policy document entitled “Policy of the United Arab Emirates on the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy”, outlined key commitments, highlighting the peaceful nature of its nuclear energy program.

The UAE views the application of a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, bolstered by the IAEA Additional Protocol, as an important component of its model for the adoption of peaceful nuclear energy, and as being consistent with its commitment to complete operational transparency and the highest standards of non-proliferation.

As an example of the robust international review process, In March 2020, as part of the fuel load process at Barakah Unit 1, once all of the initial fuel assemblies were loaded into the reactor, a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited the Barakah plant to perform a Physical Inventory Verification inspection. The purpose of this inspection is to identify all fuel assemblies loaded into the reactor core using their unique serial numbers, verifying that all nuclear material declared and stored at Barakah is accounted for. In this way, the IAEA confirms that none of the material has been diverted from peaceful use.

Also, it is not possible to use a commercial nuclear reactor to make a nuclear weapon. The fuel used in reactors such as the APR1400 has a low enrichment level (around 3-5%), which is too low to make a weapon, which requires an enrichment level of more than 90%. The fuel would have to be used in one of our reactors for several thousand years before enough material can be generated to make a bomb.

  1. Barakah is in a region that can be unstable, what are you doing to ensure security?

The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is a critical national asset, and as such, the physical protection of the plant and related material and equipment fall under the protection of Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority (CICPA), the government authority tasked with handling the protection and security of Abu Dhabi’s vital assets and infrastructure.

The IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Report 3, provides details on the infrastructure measures implemented at Barakah to ensure nuclear security.

  1. What’s the risk of an accident like TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima happening at Barakah?

The Barakah plant has implemented lessons learned from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Post-Fukushima, the APR1400 design used at Barakah underwent a significant review using the European Stress Test method. This method determined that the plant design was already fairly robust against Fukushima-type events. To ensure this, FANR integrated the lessons learned from Fukushima into the requirements for the construction of the Barakah plant and reported on their implementation to the IAEA in 2017.

ENEC still implemented 18 design enhancements to provide further capability to protect the health and safety of the public and prevent release of radioactive material to the environment. These modifications would allow plant operators additional methods to further mitigate a number of scenarios including earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, station blackouts and severe accidents. For example, we have a number of back-up power options in the event we lose power on site. One of these back-up power supplies is the AAC. In our original design the AAC could run for up to 8 hours before needing more fuel. With our revised design, the fuel will last up to 24 hours.