UAE Nuclear Energy Programme witnessed major milestones in 2020

Vision is to be globally recognized as a leading nuclear regulator


ABU DHABI - The UAE Nuclear Energy Programme has witnessed major milestones this year, said Christer Viktorsson, Director-General of the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

Addressing a media briefing in Abu Dhabi today, Viktorsson, detailed the achievements the UAE Nuclear Energy Programme has made despite the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, which affected the whole world.

"Our vision is to be globally recognized as a leading nuclear regulator. I am confident that we are on the right track and that we have, from the result of our corporate performance indicators, succeeded on positioning FANR as one of the leading regulators internationally," he added.

Below is the full text of FANR Director General's speech: Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank you for attending the virtual Media Briefing of the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).

2020 has been a challenging year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected the people and the industries around the world. The UAE government with its wise leadership has responded efficiently and effectively providing the necessary support and guidance to all Government entities and now focusing its efforts towards the recovery phase. The UAE has become one of the leading countries and a model in responding proactively during the pandemic.

The nuclear power plants operating around the world have been continuing producing electricity in spite of the challenges posted by Covid-19 pandemic. Nuclear regulators continued their oversight to ensure the safe operation of the power plants. FANR, thanks to the support of the Board of Management, successfully managed to cope with these unforeseen circumstances and maintain our regulatory functions thanks to our robust and reliable systems. FANR activated its Business Continuity Management Plan and setting a crisis management COVID-19 Task Force, which supported the management in implementing a range of measures across the organization. These measures included mandating employees to work remotely, reduced number of resident inspectors at Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, and activated the remote inspections to maintain our regulatory mandate. We encouraged our licensees across the UAE to use our smart systems to ensure ease of business access.

Today, I would like to share with you some of the key milestones for this year and our future projects to ensure the efficient fulfillment of our mandates towards the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear and radiation activities in the United Arab Emirates.

Our vision is to be globally recognized as a leading nuclear regulator. I am confident that we are on the right track and that we have, from the result of our corporate performance indicators, succeeded on positioning FANR as one of the leading regulators internationally. We will continue advocating our mission to protect the public and the environment from the harmful effects of ionising radiation, and to ensure the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy in an integrated manner with the concerned authorities and according to international best practices, as well as build the capability of Emiratis to be able to regulate the nuclear and radiation industry now and in the future.

Barakah Nuclear Power Plant The UAE Nuclear Energy Programme has witnessed major milestones this year. Unit 1 of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant has reached 100 per cent power, delivering electricity to the national grid. As you know, FANR issued earlier this year the Operating License for Unit 1 for a duration of 60 years making the UAE the first Arab country to operate a nuclear power plant in a short span of time. The issuance of the operating license is a culmination of efforts made by FANR since the start of the nuclear programme. FANR received the license application for operation of unit 1 in 2015, comprising over 14,000 pages. During the review period, FANR conducted 185 inspections and requested over 2,000 additional pieces of information to ensure the nuclear power plant compliance with all regulatory requirements. FANR will continue to conduct the oversight of Unit 1 in the commissioning phase until the commercial operation, and during the entire life of the plant, to ensure the safety and security of the nuclear plant.

Meanwhile, conducting over 30 inspections in 2020 (which cover safety, security and safeguards) to the units of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, FANR is currently reviewing the operating license application for Unit 2 and will issue it when the operator meets all regulatory requirements. In addition, FANR certified this year a group of 23 Senior Reactor Operators and Reactor Operators at Nawah Energy Company, the operations and maintenance subsidiary of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). The newly certified group are joining other 58 certified operators to manage the control room of Units 1 and 2 of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. Our Board of Management convened last week and underscored the national importance of such a mega project to meet all regulatory requirements in terms of safety, security and non-proliferation.

Nuclear Non-proliferation FANR continues to carry out its mission as stipulated by the UAE’s nuclear law that mandates us to regulate the nation’s nuclear sector for peaceful purposes. FANR carried out 51 safeguards inspections and 16 import/export control inspections, including remote ones, ensuring compliance with FANR’s regulations. FANR issued 18 safeguards and 19 nuclear-regulated import and export licenses. We launched the "the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Centre" initiative in August 2020 to serve as a platform for training and support in the area of nuclear safeguards, export controls and non-proliferation.

Reflecting the UAE’s commitment to operational transparency and highest standards of non-proliferation, the close cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) led to the entry into force of the Facility Attachment for Unit 2 of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant and other locations across the UAE. It enables IAEA to verify key activities of the operator from their Vienna-based headquarters.

Meanwhile, our smart portal ‘NuTech’ was further integrated with other federal and local authorities to monitor the movement of regulated items through UAE borders in cooperation with Abu Dhabi Customs, Ajman Customs, General Authority of Ports, Borders and Free Zones Security (Manafth) and Dubai Civil Aviation Authority. NuTech Portal helps licensees to import or export regulated material. Since its launch in March 2018, FANR issued over 60,000 approvals using the smart portal.

Nuclear Security FANR continues its mission to regulate radioactive sources, physical protection of nuclear material & nuclear facilities. In 2020, 48 inspections conducted for licensee storage facilities. Meanwhile, FANR works closely with the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority (CICPA) in the physical protection of nuclear facilities, exchange of information and nuclear safeguards in light of the UAE international commitments.

Radiation Safety Protecting the public and the environment represents the core of FANR’s mission. FANR is working under the umbrella of the Radiation Protection Committee to develop an integrated strategy in radiation protection in the UAE. The committee acts as a platform for cooperation on radiation protection matters to ensure we have the necessary infrastructure in the country that supports regulatory decisions. One of the major milestones this year is having, for the first time in the UAE, the first batch of 14 Temporary Qualified Experts in radiation protection. This is an achievement in building capacity in radiation protection. Qualified experts are recognized by FANR to serve in advisory roles within institutions or private companies working with sources of ionizing radiation or staff who are professionally exposed to the risk of ionizing radiation.

Another aspect of FANR’s efforts is to measure the radiation levels in the UAE environment. We plan to issue soon the new edition of the ‘Radiological Environmental Monitoring Programme Report’, which illustrates FANR’s efforts in protecting the public and the environment. We continuously monitor the radioactivity levels in the UAE environment through environmental laboratory, and through our 17 radioactivity, monitoring stations positioned in various locations across the UAE.

Meanwhile, FANR continued its regulatory mission by carrying out some 240 inspections for medical & non-medical purposes. It also issued 263 new licenses, amended 226 licenses, renewed 216 and issued 1,046 import/export radiation source permits.

In addition, FANR’s Secondary Standards Dosimetry Laboratory (SSDL) provided this year over 540 calibration certificates to customers from medical, industrial and nuclear sectors in the UAE. FANR also launched the smart SSDL Portal where it enables the customers to submit directly their calibration requests and to download their calibration certificates.

Nuclear Emergency Preparedness The Emergency Operation Centre of FANR is equipped with state-of-the art equipment to coordinate FANR’s response in case of any nuclear or radiological emergency. In 2020, FANR continues to strengthen its own system and capabilities to be able to response to an emergency by organizing drills and taking part in other exercises in coordination with national entities and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It conducted and took part in six drills nationally and internationally as well as held 10 training workshops.

I would like also to announce that the UAE will host a major international exercise (Convex 3) in Q4 of 2021 to test its emergency preparedness and response system. The exercise is the largest and most complex one organised by the IAEA and is open to participation of its 172 Member States and other international organizations. It requires continuous, 24/7 operations for several days to test arrangements for severe radiological and nuclear emergencies.

State of the art Regulations In 2020, following FANR’s Regulatory Framework (2017-2021), we continue the development or revision of a number of regulations and regulatory guidance. One of the key regulations to prepare is "Emergency Preparedness and Response for Nuclear Facilities". The new version, which went through the public review, emphasizes licensees’ requirements in terms of preparation, planning and implementation of emergency preparedness and response measures. Another regulation under review is export and import of regulated nuclear material.

Research and Development Research and Development are key cornerstones in building and maintaining high levels of nuclear and radiation safety knowledge. R & D will help us ensure sound technical basis for regulatory activities and will mitigate any risks related to the nuclear industry in the UAE. The Emirates Nuclear Technology Centre, which was inaugurated in late 2019 following a collaboration agreement signed by FANR, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and Khalifa University, will focus on nuclear research to support the nuclear industry in the UAE. It is envisaged to become a centre of excellence for the region in the near future. This has been a huge milestone achievement for the country and all nuclear stakeholders. In addition, FANR has and will continue with its independent research programme to ensure the sound technical basis for our regulatory decisions.

Building Emirati Capacity in the nuclear sector FANR remains dedicated to developing Emiratis in the nuclear sector, and this forms part of its capacity building and sustainability efforts. We launched the Leadership Programme in Nuclear Regulation, which is a first of its kind for a nuclear regulator, to develop the leadership competency of FANR directors and management to enhance performance towards FANR’s mission. It will focus on supporting Emiratization and building their nuclear regulation knowledge. In addition, our first batch of three in the Legal Developee Programme graduated this year and joined legal affairs department at FANR. It is one of our programmes to build knowledge and skills of Emiratis into the nuclear regulation and laws.

We launched last month the Youth Council to nurture and support our future Emirati nuclear experts in the field of nuclear regulation. The council aims to provide an environment to empower the youth and nurture their ambitions and ideas, paving the way for developing the future generation of Emirati nuclear experts. Currently, FANR employs 245 staff members, of which 67% are Emiratis. Young Emiratis constitute around 44% of total Emirati workforce.

National and International Cooperation Cooperation is a core element in our work. We have a solid relationship with national entities and international organizations and regulatory authorities of other countries. In 2020, we extended our cooperation with regulators of other countries and continued to be actively taking part in the work of international and regional organizations in the nuclear and radiation fields. Moreover, we extended the agreement with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the exchange of technical information related to nuclear regulation, nuclear safety research and training.

We plan to sign a number of agreements to have cooperation projects with countries such as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and research organisations in the Republic of Korea to further our international collaboration for the benefit of the safe, secure, and peaceful application of nuclear energy and radiation applications in the UAE.

Designing the Next 50 Years FANR strives for excellence in carrying out its mandate and in 2020 we were awarded six ISO certifications demonstrating FANR’s robust regulatory systems. FANR is supporting the initiative of ‘designing the next 50 years’ project, which was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. FANR will launch a series of initiatives as of January 2021 that will include our staff, stakeholders and the public to shape the nuclear regulator mission in the country. Meanwhile, we concluded last month a strategic retreat where we evaluated our business strategy ending in 2021 and discussed the opportunities and challenging facing us to design the next five-year strategy (2022-2026). We underscore the role of technology in maintaining efficiency and effectiveness in our work such as conducting remote inspections for nuclear power plant and other facilities, using artificial intelligence and Fourth Industrial Revolutions technologies amongst others.

© Copyright Emirates News Agency (WAM) 2020.

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