ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates on Friday was forced to delay by a year the start-up of its first nuclear reactor as the company set up to run it has not yet received an operating license.
The world's largest single nuclear project, the Barakah nuclear plant will deliver up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity when completed around 2020 and is led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), which is building four APR-1400 reactors simultaneously .
Confirming a Reuters report on Thursday, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said that work on the first reactor had been completed but Nawah, the ENEC-KEPCO joint venture set to run the plant, had not yet received an operating license from the UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR).
ENEC announced "an extension for the start-up of nuclear operations for Unit 1, from 2017 to 2018, to ensure sufficient time for international assessments and adherence to nuclear industry safety standards, as well as a reinforcement of operational proficiency for plant personnel".
"FANR is conducting a...review of the operating license application...and numerous inspections of construction and operational readiness," ENEC said.
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) will also assess Barakah's infrastructure and personnel.
"These assessments will take place before we anticipate being granted our operating license and begin the process of loading fuel," said Nawah's acting CEO Mohammed Sahoo AlSuwaidi.
"We recognize the scale of both our responsibilities and of the challenges that lie ahead of us," he said.
The UAE is building a nuclear industry from scratch, hiring nuclear physicists, setting up a regulator, training operators and setting up institutes for radiation monitoring and accident prevention.
India, Brazil, South Africa, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey have done this or are also in the process of developing their nuclear industries.
South Korea's KEPCO - a newcomer in the business of building nuclear plants abroad - has built the UAE plants on time and on budget, in contrast with years of delay and billions in cost overruns at projects of leading Western builders Areva and Westinghouse.
Writing by Geert De Clercq in Paris; editing by Alexander Smith and Jason Neely