Abu Dhabi, UAE: Back in 2009 when the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation was formed, the UAE was without a single nuclear energy engineer. ENEC wasn’t concerned however, as it followed the UAE’s leading approach to developing the national talent, and with it the national intellect, it would need to ensure the sustainable success of its civil nuclear energy program. Fast forward to today and not only does the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program have hundreds of UAE Nationals with nuclear engineering degrees, but it has now added a further 39 certified UAE National nuclear operators to the 30 UAE National nuclear operators that have certified since 2020.
This has brought the total number of certified Senior Reactor Operators (SROs) and Reactor Operators ( Ros) in the country up to 193, 69 of whom are UAE Nationals including nine Emirati females.
The UAE National operators are working alongside a host of international experts, many of which have decades of operating experience gained in nuclear plants across the world.
These nuclear experts are now certified to operate the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant as part of the operations crews of Nawah Energy Company (Nawah), the operations and maintenance subsidiary of ENEC mandated to operate and maintain the plant. Each individual received their certifications from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator, after passing rigorous examinations.
To become a qualified SRO and RO, each candidate needs to complete a comprehensive training program in the most advanced nuclear energy plants around the world alongside their academic learning in the UAE and abroad. The program enables the operators acquire the knowledge and skills that allow them to manage a nuclear energy reactor through academic work, hands on experience, and development programs. The operators spend thousands of hours in the state-of-the-art simulators at Barakah to ensure they can competently manage any situation. To obtain the formal qualification and license, they sit rigorous examinations evaluated by FANR’s experts.
With Units 1,2 and 3 commercially operating and Unit 4 in the final stage of commissioning, more operators are now in training to ensure a sustainable pipeline of talent for the next 60 years of operations, and the long-term success of the UAE Program.
“We have been inspired by previous energy pioneers here in the UAE who paved the way for us, and today Emiratis are at the forefront of one of the most important clean energy technologies globally for rapidly cutting carbon emissions. I am proud to work within a multi-national team and learn from experts from around the globe at the Barakah plant,” said Khalid Almarzooqi, a newly certified SRO.
Mariam Alameri, one of the newly certified SROs said:” I am proud to join our other female operators, alongside the many females working across every aspect of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy program. Comprising 20% of our total workforce, ENEC and its subsidiaries has one of the highest percentages of females globally in the nuclear sector, highlighting the empowerment of women in our sector here in the UAE to deliver the clean energy transition to deliver Net Zero by 2050.”
Ahmed Jasem Alzaabi, another newly certified SRO added: “I look forward to working with a team that has developed a historic mega-project that is today powering homes, industries and businesses with clean electricity and will continue to do so for at least the next 60 years ahead. We have benefitted from years of advanced training to meet the UAE regulatory requirements and in line with the highest international standards of the global nuclear energy industry. This has equipped us with the experience, skills and knowledge needed to safely operate the Plant and lead our Nation’s clean energy transition.”
Majed Al Mansoori a newly certified SRO commented: “I look forward to using all of my training and experience to work at the Barakah Plant. I know that through our work, we are driving the decarbonization of the energy sector and supporting our nation in achieving Net Zero.”
The Plant is accelerating the decarbonization of the power sector to support the development of the Nation’s net zero economy, in addition to spearheading an increase in the intellectual wealth of the UAE with thousands of high-value career opportunities for UAE Nationals, along with facilitating clean energy growth and innovation through R&D in clean energy.
The Barakah Plant is a powerhouse for the UAE’s sustainable development, energy security and stability, generating high-value jobs and stimulating the growth of local industries in addition to the significant environmental benefits for the nation over the next 60 years and beyond. It is this boost in national capabilities and national intellect that is so important for the UAE, with cross-pollination of skills and expertise planned across related sectors such as agriculture, medicine and deep space exploration. This will deliver the significant value nuclear energy has to offer beyond power generation.
The Plant demonstrates the success of the UAE’s long-term investment to diversify its energy portfolio, while advancing towards a Net Zero future through nuclear energy. Gas demand for electricity is now at an 11 year low in Abu Dhabi because of the significant transformation in how the Emirate is generating its electricity.
ENEC is now leading efforts in research across areas like development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), clean hydrogen and other clean technologies. Barakah provides electricity at all times of the day and night, sustainably powering the nation’s growth. Once fully operational, the four units of Barakah will provide up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs.