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ENEC to study SMR and microreactor technologies

Barakah’s Unit 4 is due to start next year. (Image source: ENEC)

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has launched a new programme called ENEC ADVANCE to study the latest technologies in the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) and microreactor categories

These technologies  can generate clean electrons and molecules, such as steam, hydrogen and ammonia, as well as process heat for industrial processes. ENEC will work with national stakeholders to determine deployment pathways, and with international partners for both technology and project collaboration opportunities.

The ADVANCE programme aims to support the continued rapid decarbonisation of the country’s heavy and energy intensive industries, creating further sources of clean energy, ENEC said. 

Heavy industry (steel, aluminium, oil, gas, cement and chemicals), and transport currently contribute to 50% of the UAE’s total carbon emissions. These sectors are challenging to decarbonise as they require vast amounts of energy continuously and a significant portion of the emissions arises from activities conducted off-grid.

Advanced reactors and SMRs offer a decarbonisation solution for these sectors. These reactors can be co-located with critical infrastructure and provide a reliable supply of clean electricity, as well as clean steam, heat and hydrogen. According to ENEC, SMRs are easier to manufacture, thereby contributing greater economies of scale, in addition to being flexible, safe and efficient to deploy.

The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, developed by ENEC, is closer to full-fleet operations following the recent announcement by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) that it has granted the operating license for Unit 4. The Barakah Plant already generates more than 80% of Abu Dhabi Emirate’s clean electricity and will generate 40 TWh annually once fully operational, while preventing the release of over 22.4 million tons of carbon emissions. Barakah’s Unit 4 is due to start next year. 

ENEC added that global nuclear energy capacity will need to triple to meet the growing demand for clean energy and meet Net Zero targets, and this capacity will come from large-scale reactors, advanced reactors and SMRs. At present, there are more than 80 SMR designs alone at varying stages of progress, with owners anticipating commercial deployment in the early 2030s. The SMR market is already valued at over US$6bn, which is expected to rise significantly once the first reactors come online.

Mohamed Al Hammadi, managing director and CEO of ENEC, said “Nuclear energy is vital for reaching Net Zero as part of a balanced portfolio of energy sources, and we are committed to evaluating and deploying the latest nuclear energy technologies to accelerate the decarbonisation of the UAE’s hard-to-abate industries that require ever-growing volumes of clean electricity, molecules, heat and steam…ENEC is working to harness innovative nuclear energy technologies like advanced reactors to facilitate the achievement of the UAE’s climate goals and transition to low-carbon energy systems.”