Barakah Unit 2 completed; French auditor calls for guarantees

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Barakah Nuclear Power Plant (Source: Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation)

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has completed the construction of Unit 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, located in the Al Dhafra region of the Abu Dhabi Emirate, the company said July 14.

ENEC has handed over the systems of the Unit 2 to the Nawah Energy Company, ENEC’s operating and maintenance subsidiary, for commissioning and operational readiness activities, which marks the end of the construction activities for the second of four units at Barakah, the company said in a statement. 

The Nawah team will now begin operational readiness activities while regulatory approval from the UAE’s regulatory body, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) was still required and international assessments must also take place before the Unit 2 Fuel Load, it said. 

The completion of the unit comes after the company’s CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi said in May that Unit 1 was close to reaching criticality and would start on schedule. 

“The advanced tests demonstrated Unit 2’s exemplary structural safety performance and ensured that its systems and components will reliably and safely perform their intended functions when operational,” ENEC said. 

The unit has already completed a number of system tests including Cold Hydrostatic Testing (CHT), the Structural Integrity Test (SIT) and the Integrated Leak Rate test (ILRT) as part of its Initial Testing Program (ITP), it said. 

French Auditor tells EDF new EPR projects must have financing guarantees 

The construction of new EPRs in France must have clear financing methods and guarantees, after difficulties and construction costs were underestimated during the building of the first two EPRs in Finland and France, the country’s state audit office Cour des Comptes said on July 9. 

According to the audit office, a non-arbitrated rivalry between EDF and Areva group was reflected in the hasty launch of the two EPRs, and said the French EPR in Flamanville was an operational failure with considerable cost and time delays. 

“The 3.3 times increase in the construction cost, estimated by EDF at €12.4 billion (2015 value), and by at least 3.5 times the commissioning time for the Flamanville EPR compared to initial forecasts, constitutes a considerable drift,” the audit office said. 

“This is the result of unrealistic initial estimates, poor organization of the project by EDF, a lack of vigilance on the part of the supervisory authorities and a lack of awareness of the loss of technical competence of industrialists in the sector.” 

Meanwhile, the setbacks for the Olkiluoto EPR in Finland have greatly contributed to the financial difficulties of the former Areva group, it said adding that two EDF reactors in China, commissioned in 2018 and 2019, have not been profitable for EDF. 

EDF can no longer finance the construction of new reactors on its own and it is studying how more of the cost could be transferred over to the consumer, it said. 

Reactor likely cause of elevated levels of radioisotopes in northern Europe 

Slightly higher levels of radioisotopes in northern Europe is likely to be from a nuclear power station that is operating or in maintenance, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said at the beginning of July. 

“Basing its technical assessment on data reported by its Member States, the IAEA reiterated that the observed air concentrations of the particles were very low and posed no risk to human health and the environment,” the IAEA said in a statement. 

Higher than usual levels of Ruthenium and Caesium isotopes and some other artificial radionuclides were detected in Estonia, Finland and Sweden, the IAEA said, though the three countries, as well as 40 other countries that provided information to the agency, said there have been no events in their territories to explain their presence. 

The IAEA has ruled out that the release was related to the improper handling of a radioactive source and said it was unlikely to be linked to a nuclear fuel processing plant, a spent fuel pool or the use of radiation in industry or medicine. 

EU COVID-19 recovery plan includes nuclear, ITER 

European Union leaders, after four days and nights of negotiations, agreed on a recovery plan for Europe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic worth some 1.8 trillion ($2.07 trillion) which included funds for nuclear decommissioning and the ITER project, the European Commission said July 21. 

Amongst Large Scale Projects, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project received a financial envelope for its implementation 2021-2027 of a maximum of 5 billion. 

As part of Security and Defence, money was allocated to the decommissioning of Ignalina, in Lithuania (490 million euros) with an EU contribution rate of 86%, Bohunice, in Slovakia (50 million) with a maximum EU contribution rate of 50% and Kozloduy, in Bulgaria, (57 million) with a maximum EU contribution rates of 50%. 

“In addition, 448 million for nuclear safety and the decommissioning of the EU's own installations will be provided,” the EC said. 

By Nuclear Energy Insider