MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN
2020 has been another milestone year for FANR in delivering its mandate to ensure the peaceful, safe and secure use of nuclear energy and radiation sources as well as develop the sustainability of the UAE’s regulatory infrastructure according to its 2017-2021 Corporate Strategy.
It is with my pleasure to share with you the Annual Report depicting FANR’s main activities for 2020. The past year has been a historic year for the UAE and FANR. FANR issued the operating license of Unit 1 of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), making the UAE the first Arab country to operate a nuclear power plant. This is a historic moment for the nation under the wise leadership of the UAE’s rulers. The Barakah Nuclear Power Plant is our top priority as it will contribute to the UAE’s energy grid and meet our beloved country’s ambitions to diversify its sources of energy. It is our mission to ensure fully BNPP is safe, secure and peaceful.
The year constituted a challenge nationally and internationally after the declaration by the World Health Organisation of Coronavirus (Covid-19) as a global pandemic. The UAE, thanks to the vision and wisdom of its leadership, has managed to steer safely through the situation. In addition, FANR has efficiently and diligently maintained its regulatory functions to protect the community, workers and the environment using its smart systems. FANR was thus awarded six ISO certifications, demonstrating our efficient regulatory systems.
Regulating the nuclear industry is a complex task requiring high-level and knowledge-intensive expertise. Hence, we are proud to have qualified Emirati nuclear experts working side by side with our foreign expert staff in nuclear safety, nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation. We emphasise research and development (R&D) and work with national and international partners to build a robust regulatory framework, together with Emirati experts who are ready to lead the regulation of the nuclear industry in the UAE.
H.E. Abdulla Nasser Al Suwaidi Chairman
MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR GENERAL
FANR in 2020 continued the journey towards realising its vision to be a globally recognised nuclear regulator by providing thorough oversight of the nuclear industry in the UAE. Since its establishment in 2009, FANR has set up a robust regulatory infrastructure that has procedures and processes in place that ensure we carry out our mission to protect the public and environment from radiation hazards as well as ensuring the safety, security and peaceful use of all nuclear activities in the country.
In early 2020, FANR marked a historic milestone for the UAE by issuing the Operating License of Unit 1 of BNPP. The Operating License, issued for a duration of 60 years, authorized Nawah Energy Company (NAWAH) to commission and operate the Unit. The decision to issue the Operating License was the culmination of efforts by FANR since it received the Operating License Application from ENEC, on behalf of NAWAH, in 2015. FANR followed a systematic review process that included a thorough assessment of the application documentation as well as conducting robust regulatory oversight and inspections. FANR conducted regular oversight at BNPP during the commissioning phase – from the nuclear fuel loading process, to achieving first criticality and connecting to the grid. Our regulatory work at BNPP is ongoing to ensure its safety and security while delivering on our commitment to the community.
2020 was a challenging year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which affected people and industries around the world. The UAE government, with its wise leadership, responded efficiently in providing the necessary support and guidance to all government entities and is now focusing its efforts on the recovery phase. The UAE has become one of the leading countries and a model in responding proactively to the pandemic.
The nuclear power plants operating around the world continued producing electricity in spite of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nuclear regulators maintained their oversight to ensure the safe operation of the power plants. FANR, thanks to the support of our Board of Management, coped successfully with these unforeseen circumstances and maintained our regulatory functions thanks to robust and reliable systems. FANR activated its Business Continuity Management Plan and set-up a crisis management Covid-19 Task Force, which supported management by implementing a range of measures across the organisation. These measures included mandating employees to work remotely, reducing the number of resident inspectors at Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, and activating 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.
Protecting the public and the environment represents the core of FANR’s mission. FANR worked under the umbrella of the Radiation Protection Committee (RPC) to develop an integrated strategy for 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 to support regulatory decisions. One of the major milestones this year, and a first for the UAE, was the initial batch of 14 Temporary Qualified Experts in radiation protection. This marked an important 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 ionising radiation or staff who are professionally exposed to the risk of ionising radiation.
The FANR Emergency Operation Centre is equipped with state-of-the art equipment to coordinate FANR’s response in case of any nuclear or radiological emergency. In 2020, FANR continued to strengthen its own system and capabilities to be able to respond to an emergency by organising drills and taking part in other exercises in collaboration with national entities and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Research and Development are key cornerstones in building and maintaining high levels of nuclear and radiation safety knowledge. R & D will help us ensure a 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 was a huge milestone for the country and all nuclear stakeholders. In addition, FANR continued to ensure the sound technical basis for our regulatory decisions through its independent research programme.
FANR remains dedicated to developing Emiratis in the nuclear sector, and this forms part of our capacity building and sustainability efforts. We launched the Leadership Programme in Nuclear Regulation, a first of its kind for a nuclear regulator, to develop the leadership competency of FANR directors and management to enhance performance towards achieving FANR’s mission. It will focus on supporting Emiratization and building nuclear regulation knowledge. In addition, our first batch of three in the Legal Developee Programme graduated this year and joined the legal affairs department at FANR. This is one of our innovative programmes to build the knowledge and skills of Emiratis in nuclear regulation and laws.
We launched 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 241 staff members, of who 68% are Emiratis. Young Emiratis constitute around 41% of our total Emirati workforce.
Attesting to FANR’s commitment to gender equality, FANR joined the International Gender Champions (IGC) Impact Group on Gender Equality in Nuclear Energy. Led by Ms Rumina Velshi (President and CEO of the Nuclear Safety Commission) the IGC Impact Group aims to expand the influence of IGC to the nuclear industry by creating a community of nuclear regulators and professionals who are committed to working on gender-related issues in their institutions and countries as well as with international partners.
FANR signed the Gender Equality Charter to confirm its determination to work with other members of the IGC Impact Group to advance gender equality in the nuclear regulatory community. Subsequent to this, two FANR employees were appointed as gender equality champions. Both attended the second meeting of the IGC Impact Group, and presented an update on the current gender balance at FANR.
FANR Director General
ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2020
We are proud to have achieved several noteworthy milestones during the year under review.
Barakah Nuclear Power Plant
FANR issued the first operation licence to Nawah Energy Company to operate reactor Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. Under FANR’s oversight, NAWAH established fuel load, criticality and connection to the grid for Unit 1.
The FANR inspection programme was adapted in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. This included establishing remote inspection techniques without compromising the objectives of the inspection. In 2020, FANR inspectors carried out 283 inspections, which comprised announced, unannounced and reactive inspections.
After issuing the operation licence to NAWAH, FANR maintained regulatory oversight to verify NAWAH’s compliance with all FANR requirements and to ensure NAWAH’s completion of the power ascension tests on Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant.
In light of the social distancing requirements in force as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, FANR adopted a hybrid inspection model combining remote inspection and physical inspection performed by resident inspectors covering all reactor units of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. The remote inspections involved verifying if the licensee had implemented the commitments it had made prior to issuance of the operation licence. It also involved certification inspections of the reactor operators and senior reactor operators, the operational readiness of Unit 2, and the construction of Units 3 and 4. FANR’s resident inspectors maintained their presence and daily verifications on the the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant site.
FANR carried out 31 inspections on the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in 2020. By year-end, FANR had certified a total of 88 reactor operators and senior reactor operators employed by NAWAH to operate and manage the main control room of Units 1 and 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant.
By the end of December 2020, FANR had issued 1,097 licences to conduct activities using radiation sources. This included 301 new licences, 304 renewals and 469 amendments. There were also 23 licences surrendered by licensees. In the same twelve-month period, FANR granted 1,307 permits, of which 964 were for the import and 343 for the export of radiation sources.
The FANR licensing process was enhanced by a web-based service, offering prompt approval for diagnostic radiology to support the efforts of the UAE’s health sector to counter the spread of the Covid-19 virus by establishing screening centres. FANR published advice on the use of mobile medical X-ray equipment outside of licensed facilities.
The web-based service was extended to all FANR licensees and provides a direct interface for reporting business issues arising from the pandemic that impact radiation safety in their regulated activities. The service has now become part of FANR’s everyday operations that cater to licensees’ requests. More than 40 requests were received by the end of 2020 and, of those requests, 69 radiation generators were approved for special use in combating the spread of Covid-19 in addition to commonly-used radiation generators in diagnostic radiology.
Following a UAE Cabinet resolution, FANR granted a three-month extension to the validity of FANR-issued licences due to expire in March 2020, until the end of June 2020.
A total of 21 export-control related licences were also issued by FANR in 2020.
UAE Environmental Report
The FANR Environmental Laboratory at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, continuously monitors radioactivity levels in the UAE environment from samples and findings from 17 radioactivity monitoring stations located across the country.
Some samples were not collected in 2020 due to the restrictions and challenges arising from the pandemic. Instead, our focus was on data from the installed gamma monitoring network and samples collected primarily around the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. In addition to samples and data collected, FANR also reviewed and assessed the licensee environmental monitoring reports.
FANR will issue radiological environmental monitoring reports with the results from the samples collected each year.
The environmental laboratory also analyses material transported across the UAE’s borders, and regularly teams-up with other federal government entities to ensure that the radioactivity in goods entering the UAE do not any pose risks to the health and safety of the public.