CAIRO - 19 January 2018: After two years of negotiations and over a half-century of aspirations, a landmark contract to build the first Egyptian nuclear plant was, at last, finalized in December.
The first talks of an Egyptian nuclear power plant go back over 50 years, when it was initially planned to be located in Sidi Krir, near Alexandria. The project however didn’t see the light due to the outbreak of the 1967 War between Egypt, Jordan and Syria against Israel.
The project was later revived following a presidential decree in 1981, and relocated to Dabaa area in Marsa Matrouh governorate on the North Coast, 183.9 miles away from Cairo. The government relocated 500 families from their homes in Dabaa to make way for the plant; however, once again, the construction never started.
After several years of waiting, state-level discussions over the Dabaa Nuclear Plant were resumed in 2014, when President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia would cooperate in building
A year later, on November 19, 2015, an agreement was finally signed between Egypt and Russia, with the latter extending a $25 billion loan to Egypt to cover the cost of the construction. The loan is set to cover 85% of the plant, with Egypt funding the remaining 15%. The plant will be built on approximately 12,000 feddans and is expected to create over 50,000 job opportunities.
After two years of negotiations on contract terms, Putin answered Sisi’s invitation to visit
Cairo and witness the signing of the Dabaa deal. Four contracts were signed on December 11, 2017 by Egypt’s Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker and the director general of Rosatom, Alexey Likhachev.
The contract came in parallel with an announcement that, after more than two years of suspension, Russian flights to Cairo would be resumed.
“The contracts we have signed are a recordbreaking deal in the history of the nuclear industry, as Dabaa is the biggest non-feedstock deal in Russian history,” Likhachev said, adding that the project is also significant to Russia’s economy as dozens of Rosatom companies will be awarded contracts for Dabaa.
Rosatom will finance and construct four third generation reactors, with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts each, for a total of 4,800 megawatts. It will also supply nuclear fuel during the plant’s entire operational lifetime, construct a purpose built storage and supply containers for storing spent fuel, in addition to conducting trainings for the workers in the first 10 years of operation.
Aiming to provide competitive electricity pricing in Egypt over a period of 60 years, both parties have reportedly already started construction works of the first unit in Dabaa nuclear plant, to be delivered by 2022 at a capacity of 1,200MW.
Dabaa lands can encompass eight nuclear plants to be constructed over eight phases, “the current four-reactor 1,200MW project is the first step,” spokesperson of the Ministry of Electricity Ayman Hamza tells Business Today Egypt, explaining
that Rosatom was chosen out of six offers by other foreign companies.
“The main condition in the contract is that the project’s land will still be owned by the Egyptian government,” he affirms, adding that Egypt is also allowed to contract with other countries to complete other phases of the project.
“Russia’s deal is also significant because it is the only country worldwide that manufactures100% of its components; and it doesn’t import anything from other countries that may not be friends with Egypt, to avoid any risks,” Hamza notes.
Rosatom’s contribution in the giant project will not be limited to Dabaa. They will also be
assisting in developing nuclear infrastructure in Egypt and increasing the number of local workers to at least 20% during the construction of the first unit.
Under the agreements, Russia will also build factories to manufacture some of the
project’s components. Dabaa contracts also entail that Egypt can repay the plant’s expenses after the end of construction and when it is in operation, in addition to a grace period.
Russia has always been perceived as a pioneer in the field of nuclear energy. It launched the first commercial nuclear power plant in the world in 1954, 100 kilometers southwest of Moscow.
This came five years after the government had adopted a peaceful nuclear power program. Rosatom now has 34 reactors under construction in 12 countries, including Turkey and Jordan in the Middle East, and now Egypt, according to the company ‘s press material.
Preparing for the future
To prepare workers for the project, the Dabaa Advanced Technical School for Nuclear Applications opened its door for students last November, currently located at the School of Industrial Technology in Nasr City until the establishment of their main school headquarters in Marsa Matrouh is completed.
Out of 1,870 applications, a total of 75 students were chosen to join the school this year,
following the requirements set by the General Administration of Industrial Technical Education at the Ministry of Education. The Dabaa school covers educational and training programs at three levels that comply with the three types of professionals to be working in the project; engineers, technicians and administrative staff.
Pre-university exchange programs are offered to students of both technical and vocational education and are focused on providing opportunities to young people in the technical education field to master key aspects of nuclear plant operation.
It also provides students the opportunity to learn about nuclear power to raise awareness of the technology, chief advisor for energy, environment and climate change Maher Aziz says, adding that Egyptian-Russian cooperation in nuclear education is expected to further expand to the university level, as Rosatom has signed agreements with Alexandria, Helwan and Assiut universities to provide them with materials for teaching nuclear science and technology.
Engineering professor at the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University Mohamed El Sobki says that nuclear power and educating the society about it has positive implications not only on the electricity production front but also on the health and environment fronts.
“It is recommended that the training should be carried out and updated continuously, and to be expanded to include a larger number of trainees,” Sobki adds.
The Egyptian parliament approved late last November three laws to form an executive authority board for the supervision of nuclear stations that generate electricity after amending the1976 law (Law No. 13/1976).
The amendments made by the parliament include changing the executive authority which is in charge of supervising the construction of the nuclear power stations. The authority has been granted more power, in terms of signing contracts with the private sector inside and outside of Egypt to build nuclear power stations.
It is also tasked with carrying out experiments within existing stations, hiring qualified staff for the operation of the stations, issuing progress reports on nuclear projects, and releasing annual reports on the authority’s finances to be revised by the minister of electricity.
The amendments also state that contractors and subcontractors hired by the authority, as well as loans taken by the authority from foreign sources for the purpose of building nuclear power projects in Egypt are exempt from taxes.