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UAE Portrait of a Nation: First Emirati Barakah nuclear plant inspector

posted on 06/02/2016: 1853 views



When Khalid Naqbi joined the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (Fanr), he never imagined the job would become such an important part of his life.

The 32-year-old became the country's first Emirati inspector at the Barakah nuclear power plant in 2014.

"I feel like I raised this plant," Naqbi in a profile feature carried today by the English language daily 'The National'.

"I witnessed all the major milestones, I was there during Ramadan.

"And when it is fully operational, I would like to keep watching it flourish like a flower."

Naqbi, who is one of 13 children, refers to himself as the authority's "eyes, ears and hands", spending 10 hours a day inspecting every detail of the facility.

"I was there when the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) started soil testing," he says.

"Barakah was just covered in sand, and I was there for the first inspection, for the first concrete pouring and the first nuclear vessel arriving on site."

Although he started working as an inspector for Fanr in Abu Dhabi in 2009, he moved to the Western Region five years later to live on-site.

Before his posting with the authority, he worked as a health and safety inspector at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi in 2007, before moving to ZonesCorp, the capital's industrial regulator.

"When the UAE Government declared they had the intention of building a local nuclear power plant, the authority started with its programme," he says.

"For me it was a good opportunity to switch from the industrial to the nuclear sector, and I started to ask myself if I wanted to join the authority, whether there was anything interesting and what knowledge I would gain from it."

Naqbi, who has a degree in chemistry from UAE University, finally chose to make the move.

"As an inspector, I thought it was an opportunity to increase my knowledge of nuclear energy and to become a pioneer in this sector," Mr Naqbi says. "It was a continuation of my job but in a different field, and I am very proud of having been able to witness such major milestones."

He says there was a steep learning curve. "The advantage of nuclear knowledge is that it is a continuation," he says. "I will never get 100 per cent knowledge in the nuclear sector and I always search for new things, but some of the main topics I have learnt include geology in soil testing, electrical, mechanical and commissioning."

Naqbi, who works with staff members from South Korea, says living at Barakah was a breeze.

"The living conditions are good and everything is available," he says. "I inspect anything depending on the activity. For example, during the first concrete pouring, I had to check if it complied with the regulations and industrial standards. We inspect whatever is related to nuclear safety, [which is] my concern."

Naqbi considers nuclear power to be an important energy source in a post-oil era in the UAE. "Like any individual, when you tell them nuclear, they get worried and think of a bomb," he says. "But I explained to my family that the purpose of nuclear energy in the UAE was to produce electricity. My father encouraged me a lot and he pushed me to learn more." – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395291181293.html

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