UAE - Energy & Mining
Director General, Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR)
Christer Viktorsson is a nuclear physicist with more than 35 years of national and international nuclear safety experience. He has a master’s degree in physics from Abo Academy University in Finland. His previous career highlights include contributing to the production of radioisotopes for medical purposes, working at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency in France and at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria, and serving 10 years as deputy director general of the Swedish Nuclear Safety Authority. In 2009, he initially joined FANR as Deputy Director General of Operations to coordinate the early establishment and management of FANR’s regulatory framework. He then rejoined in 2015 to lead the organization as Director General.
Given that nuclear energy will play an important part in the global energy supply, as the regulatory authority FANR will work closely with all actors in the sector to ensure its safe use.
What have been the latest developments for FANR this past year?
FANR has been achieving milestones in the UAE by regulating the nuclear and radiological sectors in the UAE. One of the important projects is the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. Unit 1 is currently in commercial operation, and Unit 2 started commercial operation in 2022. The Barakah is now halfway toward its goal of providing 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs. We are planning to issue the operating license for Unit 3 in 2022 and are currently carrying out rigorous assessment to ensure it is ready for the commercial operation. Following the issuance of the Operating License for Unit 3, we will start reviewing the operating license for the Unit 4 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. Our goal is to ensure the safe operation of the four units and protection of the community and the environment alike.
As a regulatory organization, how do you see the future of nuclear energy?
Nuclear energy is imminent and will play an important part globally and also in the UAE. We, therefore, have to make sure as a regulatory authority that we work closely with the sectors to ensure the safe use of nuclear energy. Furthermore, there will be other types of technologies as well, and that is something FANR needs to think about as well in terms of making preparations, issuing regulations, licensing, and so on. Another thing is to make sure we have learned all the lessons from Fukushima Daiichi accident. We also need to look at transferring all this knowledge and skills currently to the new generation. FANR and the UAE are making a great effort on developing the careers and futures of young people.
How would you characterize the role of nuclear energy in improving the UAE’s energy diversification going forward?
The operation of the nuclear power plant will help reduce CO2 emissions. Nuclear power can make a significant contribution to reducing the carbon footprint in the UAE, because we can turn down facilities that today produce electricity using natural gas. This is a strong point. Nuclear power also gives a stable base load; it runs 24 hours all-year round in any weather condition. There are many technologies now in development, not only nuclear energy for electricity production, but also nuclear for desalination and nuclear for hydrogen production. That is the advantage of these new technologies: they are flexible and perfect for remote or small communities as well as small industries that require a large amount of electricity. Because everything is moving into electrification, we need to increase production of clean electricity. That is why FANR is here to regulate the sectors and ensure the safe and secure uses of nuclear energy to meet the country needs.
Where are your priorities for the next one to three years?
The safety of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant is a priority. This is a concern for not only us, but everyone. Lessons have been learned from previous accidents, so we are confident though we are not complacent. We have an active inspection program all the time at Barakah. Another priority is to be able to meet all types of challenges, though this is related to security and other evolving trends. Another priority is training young Emiratis, so we can localize all the skills and knowledge as much as possible. Skills and knowledge are scarcer now, and many countries have slowed down education in the area of nuclear energy. We are certainly leading that effort in the UAE, together with other countries. Today, we are at 70% Emiratis, and there have been major developments in this area. We have an interesting transformation and capacity building effort together with many organizations, nationally and internationally.
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