Frequently Asked Questions

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About Nuclear Energy

How does a nuclear energy plant produce electricity?

A nuclear reactor produces electricity in much the same way as other power plants. the chain reaction produces the energy, which turns water into steam. The steam turns a generator to produce power. The difference is how the heat is created. Some energy plants burn coal, oil or natural gas to generate heat. In a nuclear energy facility, heat is produced from splitting atoms – a process called nuclear fission.

While carefully controlled, trillions of atoms fission each second in a nuclear reactor. This chain reaction process heats water, which produces steam. The steam travels through pipes to a turbine and spins the blades like a pinwheel. The turbine blades connect to a shaft that spins, turning the steam's energy into mechanical energy. The turbine shaft connects to a generator and the generator shaft spins around inside a set of electromagnets. The magnets create the electrical current that powers our homes and businesses.

What is radiation and where does it come from?

Radiation is the term used for energy in motion. It can be in the form of waves or particles. There are many natural sources of radiation that we live with safely every day. For example, we receive radiation from the sun, called cosmic radiation.

In addition to being naturally present in our environment, radiation can also be produced artificially. Examples of artificial radiation include medical x-rays and kitchen microwaves.


Are nuclear energy plants safe?

In the UAE, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) will play an essential role in ensuring that the country’s nuclear energy plant is safe, secure and reliable.

Is it safe to live near or work in a nuclear energy plant?

Nuclear energy plants represent one of the smallest sources of radiation exposure to the public. If you stood at the site boundary for a whole year, you would receive less than:

  • A quarter of the radiation you would get from a chest x-ray at the doctors.
  • A third of the radiation you would get on a flight from Paris to New York.

What systems do you have in place in case of an emergency?

ENEC is working alongside the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority (CICPA), under the regulation of FANR and with the guidance of the IAEA to develop and implement the highest international standards of safety and security across the program.

As a critical national asset, the physical protection of the nuclear energy plants and related material and equipment fall under the protection of the CICPA - the government authority tasked with handling the protection and security of Abu Dhabi’s vital assets and infrastructure.

A dedicated Emergency Preparedness and Response team is responsible for developing the plant’s emergency response plan. The plan will be tested regularly and any residents living in a 50-kilometer radius of the site will receive regular information and training on what to do in the event of an emergency. To date, ENEC has conducted more than 20 successful Emergency Drills.

Will the plant impact the environment?

ENEC is committed to operating the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in an environmentally responsible manner throughout construction and operation. The organization is working under the regulations of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), which granted approval for the construction of the plant. ENEC has conducted a detailed analysis of existing environmental conditions and submitted a series of environmental studies to the EAD.

In addition, ENEC will be actively pursuing programs that support the environmental ambitions of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

Nuclear Energy in the UAE

Why has the UAE established a nuclear energy program?

Electricity demand in the UAE is growing significantly. The government found in a 2007 study that existing and planned electricity supply would not meet future demand. As a result, the government evaluated an array of energy options in terms of relative costs, sustainability, security of supply and the potential for long-term economic development.

The study determined that the development of a commercial nuclear energy program was essential to deliver the needed baseload electricity through an emissions-free energy source that could be ramped up to meet a significant portion of the nation’s energy demand.

Why choose nuclear energy over other sources of generation?

After evaluating a wide array of energy options, nuclear energy emerged as the right choice to deliver the needed baseload electricity with nearly zero carbon emissions. It is a proven, commercially viable technology, and offers opportunities to power the UAE’s economic and social growth for years to come.


What type of reactors are being constructed for the UAE’s facility?

The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant will consist 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 Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS). The design is based on the System 80+ design, which was previously certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the United States.

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.

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” approach to safety.

  • The fuel pellet, fuel rods and reactor all sit inside a steel vessel.
  • That large steel vessel is enclosed by a containment unit – a very large metal dome that is surrounded by very thick layers of reinforced concrete.
  • The containment building is very strong and can withstand the impact of a commercial aircraft.


What contracts does the UAE have in place to supply fuel for the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant?

Following a comprehensive procurement process, ENEC entered into contracts with six suppliers. Under these contracts, the suppliers will provide materials and services, including:

  • Purchase of natural uranium concentrate
  • Purchase of enriched uranium product and related products and services
  • Conversion services (in which uranium concentrate is 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)

Fuel fabrication services are covered under the Prime Contract with KEPCO. KEPCO Nuclear Fuels (KNF) will fabricate the fuel and deliver the completed assemblies to Barakah.

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

No. Under our non-proliferation commitment, the UAE will not enrich uranium. KNF in Korea will fabricate the fuel assemblies. Once fabricated, the fuel assemblies will be shipped to the UAE following all regulations and international best practices.

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.

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

The Federal Government of the UAE is still 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 still has plenty of time to make decisions about spent fuel management, especially with the fact that the first batch of nuclear fuel will take 20 to 30 years in the spent fuel pool. The Government is considering the options available.


Who can work on the ENEC program?

Jobs in the nuclear energy industry are diverse – from engineers and reactor operators to construction workers and office workers. Key departments include construction, engineering, business and contract functions, nuclear safeguards, nuclear energy, human resources, training and education, and many others.

More information on current job openings at ENEC is available online.

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