What role does FANR play in advancing the country's regulatory environment around nuclear energy?
We have established ourselves not only as a functioning regulatory body to enforce safety, security, and non-proliferation for nuclear energy, but also as an organization that supervises hospitals, dentists, and all those institutions that need licenses for sophisticated machines that emit radiation. As outlined by our management board, to become globally recognized as a leading nuclear regulator, we need to achieve excellence in our operations, like most UAE institutions. We are presently reviewing the operating license application for Unit 1 of the Barakah plant and need to make sure it is built according to international standards and FANR regulations before we award the operating license. The long length of this concession requires a rigorous process of supervision over safety issues and the consideration to security requirements. Also, the potential impact on the environment is part of the FANR review efforts.
What is the estimated economic impact of the Barakah power plant on the UAE market in the context of UAE Vision 2021?
This is the first time since 1985 that a new country is introducing nuclear power, and the reason for this investment is strategic, as nuclear energy seeks to save the country from oil dependency and reduce the environmental impact of electricity production. In this context, the Barakah nuclear power plant will provide stable and reliable electricity across the UAE and provide a new career path for the economy and youth. In order to be fully operational, numerous skills are required in various sectors, from basic science and engineering to legal advising. Initially, at FANR, expats such as myself came to set up, mentor, and train. Eventually we will leave space to nationals. In our efforts to support the Emiratization process, we initially started hiring from local industry and governmental institutions as well as from universities to train groups of students before moving them into the appropriate departments. Presently, we have over 220 staff members, of which 64% are Emiratis, whom we have trained in nuclear and radiation regulation to be able to assume leading expert or management roles in the nuclear sector.
What is the importance of building an integrated network with local and international authorities?
In the same way nuclear vendors and operators have transformed into global players, nuclear regulation has been impacted by globalization as well. In line with the need for continuous improvement and ensuring maximum safety of the public, workers, and the environment, we need to strengthen our regulatory programs on nuclear safety, security, radiation protection, and safeguards. Forming international partnerships where information and experience is exchanged between regulatory authorities, as well as increasing support from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has so far resulted in stronger, more robust regulatory frameworks all over the globe. Likewise for FANR, partnerships with local and international entities play an indispensable role. It establishes a platform for cooperation, support, and the exchange of information and knowledge. Locally, FANR has 15 agreements and MoUs signed with federal and local government agencies that help nurture our mission and provide the means to regulate the nuclear sector. FANR has signed 19 agreements and MoUs with international organizations and regulatory authorities of other countries to share technical information, exchange experience and lessons learned as well help in building national capacity in nuclear and radiation. Thanks to these cooperation agreements, FANR has contributed strongly to the nuclear sector by creating the legal and regulatory framework to be followed, adopting and enforcing regulations for the nuclear industry that align with international standards, and inspecting the compliance with these regulations to ensure public health and safety and ensuring the peaceful uses of it. The work of FANR and its partners is continuously enhancing the nuclear safety culture in the UAE.