The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has completed the construction of the concrete dome for the Unit 1 Reactor Containment Building.

The completion of the dome earlier this week marks the achievement of another on-time milestone in the complex construction of the UAE’s first nuclear energy plant.

The dome is the final structural component of the vast Reactor Containment Building (RCB), which now measures more than 70 metres in height.

The RCB houses the nuclear reactor and is a critical structure in the nuclear plant’s defence-in-depth barriers. RCBs are extremely robust in design; with thick concrete walls and heavy reinforcing steel, they rank among the strongest structures in the world. They are designed to confine and contain radiation, even in the most extreme circumstances.

"We are proud to maintain our track record of achieving key construction milestones safely and on time," said Mohamed Al Hammadi, Chief Executive Officer of ENEC. "The RCB is a critical structure in the plant’s safety and security. The construction of this structure has involved thousands of people who have all shown their commitment to the highest standards of quality and safety at all times."

"We remain confident and committed to successfully delivering our mission of safe, clean, reliable and efficient nuclear energy to the UAE in 2017," added Mr Al Hammadi.

Construction of the RCB commenced in July, 2012 with the fabrication of the basemat. The Containment Liner Plate, which forms the inner floor, wall and ceiling of the RCB, was then fabricated and installed in 19 stages over a period of 10 months.

The dome, which measures 51.4 metres in diameter, 24 meters in height and weighs approximately 9000 metric tonnes, has been constructed over the past five months in nine stages. The next phase of work on the RCB will involve the installation of the containment post tensioning system, which is used for pre-stressing the concrete structure, followed by a three-month structural integrity test.

Overall, Unit 1 is now more than 60 per cent complete and on track to commence commercial operations in 2017, pending further regulatory approvals. The indicative timeline for the other nuclear energy plants is for Unit 2 to begin operations in 2018, Unit 3 in 2019 and the final Unit 4 in 2020.

Following a rigorous 18-month review by the UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and a team of international nuclear energy experts, the regulator granted ENEC approval to commence construction of units 3 and 4 this earlier year. Pouring of the first safety concrete for Unit 3 was announced in September 2014.

When the four reactors are completed in 2020, the UAE’s nuclear program will provide approximately 25% of the UAE’s electricity needs, saving up to 12 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.