Barakah Plant starts Unit 2; Global nuclear power drops in 2020

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Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant with the flags of UAE and South Korea (Source: ENEC)

Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, located in the Al Dhafra Region of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), started up the second of four reactor units at the end of August, The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said in a statement.

Nawah Energy Company (Nawah), the operation and maintenance subsidiary of ENEC and the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), started up Unit 2 one year after Unit 1 and within five months of commercial operations of that the first reactor.  

“We have reached another major milestone in the delivery of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program today, as part of our journey to power the UAE with clean, abundant 24/7 electricity,” said H.E. Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Chief Executive Officer of ENEC.  

“With the start-up of Unit 2, we are now almost halfway to achieving our goal of supplying up to a quarter of our Nation’s electricity needs and enabling sustainable growth and in parallel, achieving UAE climate change targets.”

Unit 2, following its start up to produce heat through nuclear fission, will be connected to the national grid in the next few months and gradually powered up in a process known as Power Ascension Testing (PAT).

Once fully up and running, the four-unit power plant will have an installed capacity of around 5,600 MWe, ENEC says.

Global nuclear power generation drops in 2020 vs 2019

Nuclear powered generators supplied 2,553 TWh of electricity in 2020, down 3.9% or 104 TWh, from a year earlier as global power demand inched lower amid the Coronavirus pandemic and six plants were shut down, the World Nuclear Association (WNA) said in its Performance Report 2021.

While six plants closed, five new plants were brought online and, as demand fell and renewable generation rose, nuclear reactors were increasingly called upon to provide load-following support, the WNA Director General Sama Bilbao Y Leon said in a preface to the report.

By the end of 2020, 441 operable nuclear reactors had a combined capacity of 392 GWe, virtually unchanged over the last three years, while global capacity factor stood at 80.3%, down from 83.1% in 2019, the report said.

“More than half of the reactors permanently shutdown in the last few years have done so not because of technical limitations, but because of political phaseout policies or the failure of markets to adequately recognize the value of low carbon reliable nuclear power. This is a loss of low-carbon generation that the world can ill-afford to squander,” Bilbao Y Leon said.

However, there are promising signs for nuclear, she added, noting that already this year four new reactors have been connected to the grid and construction has started on seven new reactors.

“The operation of the existing nuclear fleet must be maximized and extended as long as feasible, and the pace and scale of new nuclear construction must increase,” she said.

Energoatom signs accords with Westinghouse, NuScale

Ukraine’s Energoatom has signed an exclusive agreement on AP1000 reactors with Westinghouse and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on small modular reactors (SMRs) with NuScale over the last month, the state-owned nuclear utility said in separate statements.

The accord with Westinghouse is to bring the AP1000 reactors to multiple sites in Ukraine as part of their long-term goals to develop new nuclear power plants in the country and reach its de-carbonization goals of utilizing clean, reliable, and cost-effective nuclear energy, the group said in a statement through Westinghouse.

The agreement was signed in Washington, DC, witnessed by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, the United States Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, and the Minister of Energy of Ukraine German Galushchenko.

“This agreement further strengthens our long-standing partnership with Energoatom. It represents a pivotal point in advancing Ukraine's carbon free energy future by using the world's leading nuclear reactor to meet their long-term energy needs," said Patrick Fragman, Westinghouse President and Chief Executive Officer.

Separately, Energoatom signed an MoU with NuScale Power to study the possibility of constructing its new SMR in the Ukraine.

The MoU states that NuScale will provide support on SMRs including feasibility studies of the proposed sites, development of project times and interim results, cost studies, technical analysis, licensing and permitting activities, as well as engineering and design, the Ukraine company said.

In August of last year, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) completed its Phase 6 review – the last and final phase – of the Design Certification Application for NuScale’s SMR, the first ever SMR to receive NRC design approval. 

The NuScale SMR is a factory produced Power Module, with a capacity of 77 MW using pressurized water reactor technology, that can be incorporated into the NuScale nuclear power station which can accommodate between four to 12 separate modules.  

Energoatom is looking at constructing SMRs to replace carbon thermal power plants and increase load-following capabilities in Ukraine’s power system, the head of the utility Petro Kotin said in a statement to announce the MoU.

By Reuters Events Nuclear