ENEC to evaluate deployment of SMRs and micro-reactors

05 December 2023

Following the launch of a programme aimed at leveraging its experience in successfully delivering a nuclear power plant project, the UAE's Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has signed a number of agreements with small modular reactor and micro-reactor vendors to explore opportunities for the commercialisation and global deployment of their designs.

Westinghouse's Patrick Fragman (left) and ENEC's Mohamed Al Hammadi at the signing ceremony at COP28 (Image: Westinghouse)

ENEC said its ADVANCE programme - launched on 30 November - is "provisioned to strengthen the UAE's position as a leading nation in delivering climate action by accelerating the global clean energy transition to Net Zero".

The programme will evaluate the latest technologies in the advanced, small modular reactor (SMR) and microreactor categories. In doing so, ENEC will then work with national stakeholders to determine deployment pathways, and with international partners for both technology and project collaboration opportunities.

"The programme will expedite and centralise the UAE's approach to deploying state-of-the-art nuclear technology and boosting value streams through the generation of clean electrons and molecules, strengthening opportunities for users to generate green premiums for their low-carbon end products," ENEC said.

Work to construct four Korean-designed APR-1400 units at the UAE's Barakah site began in 2012. The first three units entered commercial operation in April 2021, March 2022 and February 2023, respectively. The three units at the plant already provide more than 80% of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi's clean electricity consumption, and when complete, the four-unit plant is expected to meet up to 25% of the UAE's total electricity demand.

"With unit 4 of the Barakah plant due to start up in 2024, ENEC is now focused on capitalising on the full value of the UAE's investment in the nuclear energy sector, working closely with key technology companies and energy intensive industry leaders to identify the right technology and meet the growing demand for clean electricity and molecules," ENEC said. "ENEC's technology selection and opportunity for co-investment in technologies, will ensure it remains at the forefront of advanced reactor development and create more attractive, high-value and long-term job opportunities for UAE Nationals."

"The Barakah plant is already the largest single source of clean electricity in the UAE and Arab World," said ENEC CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi. "Now, as we evaluate the leaders in the emerging advanced reactor arena, we will utilise the ADVANCE programme to select the best technologies for our needs here in the UAE, as well as for projects internationally, where we see opportunities for collaboration and co-investment. We look forward to working closely with our global partners to advance the peaceful use of nuclear energy and support the global goal of tripling global nuclear capacity by 2050."

Vendor agreements

On the sidelines of the COP28 climate change conference taking place in Dubai, ENEC has since signed a number of agreements with vendors to assess their small and micro reactor designs.

ENEC has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to explore potential BWRX-300 deployment in the UAE for electricity generation and non-traditional applications, including clean molecule generation, clean hydrogen production, and decarbonising energy-intensive sectors. They will also consider opportunities to collaborate on engineering, workforce, supply chain development supporting projects within the UAE. The MoU includes a potential framework for ENEC to lead a broader regional deployment of BWRX-300 SMRs in the Middle East and Africa.

"As part of the new ENEC ADVANCE programme, ENEC and GE Hitachi will work together to identify ways to advance the deployment of SMRs through this new MoU," Al Hammadi said. "It is a testament to our leading role in the future of clean energy in the region as we explore the integration of advanced nuclear technologies and the use of state-of-the-art SMRs around the world."

ENEC has also signed an MoU with TerraPower, developer of the Natrium sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system, to explore opportunities for the commercialisation and global deployment of the Natrium technology. The MoU will enable the exploration of the technical design and commercial viability for both electricity generation and non-traditional applications, including hydrogen production.

"Bringing advanced nuclear technologies to market is critical to meeting global decarbonisation targets," said TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque. "TerraPower and ENEC are leading the way in deploying nuclear plants, and this agreement allows us to share our expertise and design experience, and explore the opportunity for deployment of Natrium reactors around the world including additional locations in the United States."

Under another MoU, ENEC and Westinghouse will analyse the potential opportunities for technical and commercial deployment of the eVinci microreactor both in the UAE and overseas. The agreement will involve the potential use of ENEC project delivery know-how and experience as well as inclusion of nuclear-graded UAE companies as suppliers within the nation.

"We are very excited to be partnering with ENEC once again, and with this game-changing technology that can be truly transformative to the UAE," said Westinghouse President and CEO Patrick Fragman. "Our eVinci microreactor is an innovative nuclear battery that can deliver decarbonisation and secure energy exactly where it is needed for a wide range of customers and applications."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News