ENEC update on its response to the evolving global COVID-19 pandemic


Since March 2020, ENEC has worked in close coordination with the Abu Dhabi Department of Health to implement comprehensive measures to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of its employees and contractors, along with the safety of the Barakah site. As a result, ENEC continues to effectively protect its colleagues in Barakah, and we can confirm that the risks related to COVID-19 remain successfully managed and mitigated. 

For the past eight months, these measures have included a comprehensive testing program comprised of universal PCR-based testing of all personnel prior to site entry, and ongoing, statistically-representative sentinel testing of those already at site.  Additionally, ENEC has undertaken weekly environmental testing, including sampling and analysis of sewage and waste water effluent for any markers of COVID-19 infection among the site population.  Additional UAE Government guidelines, including social distancing, sanitization and the use of masks and other prophylactic equipment have also been universally enforced across the Barakah site, as we continue to work closely with local authorities and Team Korea to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our Barakah site community.

ENEC’s comprehensive testing program, conducted jointly with local health authorities and qualified, expert medical professionals follows the UAE’s world-leading response with the highest per capita COVID-19 testing rates globally as a central pillar of its robust, proactive and systematic mitigation strategy. Importantly, ENEC’s risk mitigation strategy includes robust protocols designed specifically to safeguard the continued safe operation of Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, which received its operating license in February of this year.

Amidst the recent return of growing infection rates that have been described as a second wave of the global COVID-19 pandemic, ENEC’s ongoing testing program detected a number of positive cases, primarily among contractor staff housed in accommodations for those involved in the ongoing construction of Units 3 and 4 of the Barakah plant. In response, and per our established COVID-19 procedures, ENEC immediately initiated mandatory, site-wide testing of all personnel working in both the construction site for Units 3 and 4, as well as the operational site of Units 1 and 2, including housing and support services for each.  This mandatory, site-wide testing is currently being repeating every 72 hours.

Based on the results of that testing and to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of all site personnel, all  confirmed cases, and any close contacts, identified through careful contact tracing have been safely transferred to dedicated, off-site facilities for quarantine and observation under the specialized care of the local health authority’s expert COVID-19 teams. Thankfully, there have been no instances of severe symptoms and no hospitalization required for any site personnel.

This conservative, safety-driven approach has proven to be highly effective in quickly containing and minimizing the spread of COVID-19, and current data, as of 13 October 2020, shows no active spread of the COVID-19 virus among the workforce at either the construction site or operating units.

In support of the centralized reporting strategy of the UAE Federal Government, neither ENEC nor its joint venture operating and maintenance subsidiary, Nawah Energy Company (Nawah), independently report COVID infection or testing data.  However, all such data is transparently and faithfully reported to UAE health authorities and included in the latter’s aggregated national statistics, which are published daily and are available here. In the event of a positive test result, both the individual and her/his employer, whether ENEC, Nawah or one of the many contractor entities at site, are also duly informed to facilitate appropriate protective measures and protocols.

ENEC and Nawah also remain in regular contact with the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) to ensure all regulatory requirements are being met, and that nuclear safety remains our highest priority.

As a result of these continuous efforts and robust processes, progress continues across the site in line with all regulatory requirements and the highest international standards of nuclear safety and quality. Of particular note, critical operational staff, including licensed operators who are subject to additional protective measures, have been virtually unaffected by COVID-19, and safe operation of Unit 1 and commissioning of Unit 2 continues uninterrupted.

We wish to express our deep gratitude for the support of the UAE’s health authorities and remain, alongside our partners, determined to uphold the highest standards of health and safety, and reaffirm our One Team approach to caring for the health, safety and wellbeing of all staff at Barakah.