23 June 2024 02:12 PM

El Dabaa Nuclear Energy Plant Project

Saturday، 04 February 2023 - 10:43 AM

Egypt is currently constructing the first nuclear energy plant which will be located in El Dabaa, Matrouh Governorate. The plant will have four VVER-1200 reactors, making Egypt the only country in the region to have a Generation III+ reactor, which is fully compliant with all post-Fukushima requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

El Dabaa

El Dabaa is a 60-km town in Matrouh Governorate, Egypt, about 320 kilometers northwest of Cairo. In 1980s, a French company selected the best 23 locations for the construction of the first nuclear reactor in Egypt where El Dabaa came on top of the list and was praised by IAEA’s experts. This location is close to the water, which can be used for cooling nuclear plants, and far from the earthquakes belt and residential blocks.

Egypt Dream

The first Egyptian nuclear plant for peaceful purposes is the long-awaited dream for more than half a century.

President Gamal Abdel Nasser was the first to knock the door of nuclear future, and enthusiastically sought to let Egypt join the nuclear club. In 1955, the “Atomic Energy Commission” was formed and chaired by President Nasser, and in July 1956 Egypt and the former Soviet Union signed a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the atomic energy affairs and its applications.

In September 1956, Egypt and former Soviet Union signed a contract for establishing the first nuclear research reactor in Anshas City with a capacity of 2 megawatts. In 1957, the “Atomic Energy Commission" became the “Atomic Energy Corporation" while Anshas reactor started work in 1961.

However, soon enthusiasm to achieve the nuclear dream diminished because of the tension in relations between Egypt and the former Soviet Union in the era of the late President Anwar Sadat. President Sadat drew his attention towards the United States after the signing of the Camp David treaty, where an agreement on the construction of ten Egyptian nuclear plants by the US Westinghouse Corporation was reached. A nuclear agreement was signed between the Egyptian and American sides, but the United States did not take any step towards implementation of the project, which led President Sadat to turn his eyes to Europe, specifically France.

In the 1980s after the assassination of Sadat, former President Hosni Mubarak decided to go ahead with the nuclear project, where "El Dabaa" area was selected to be the location of the first nuclear power plant, but "Chernobyl" reactor accident delayed the project indefinitely.

In 2007, former President Mubarak announced resumption of Egypt's nuclear program in the area of El Dabaa. The government signed a contract with an Australian company in 2009 to review the project’s studies and appropriateness of El Dabaa area for construction of the nuclear reactor. The results of the studies which were prepared by the Australian company, in cooperation with the nuclear plants body and IAEA, accredited El Dabaa as a suitable area to construct a nuclear plant.

In 2013, the Armed Forces Engineering Authority started to prepare the location for implementation of the project, where it constructed the buildings of workers in the project, gas and water pipelines, electricity and communications utilities.

Egyptian-Russian Cooperation

On November 19, 2015, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed an agreement for construction of Dabaa plant in western Egypt, the country's first-ever nuclear energy project. The Dabaa agreement stipulates Russia will build four-reactors which will produce 4,800 megawatts, 1200 megawatts capacity for each. The first reactor is expected to begin operations in 2024.

The contracts specify that Russia will also supply nuclear fuel throughout the lifecycle of the plant, arrange for the training of the Egyptian personnel, and assist in the operation and maintenance of the plant for the first 10 years. Under another agreement, Rosatom will build a special storage facility and deliver casks for storing used nuclear fuel.

The project is expected to be completed in 12 years at the cost of $20 billion. Russia will extend to Egypt a loan with the value of USD 25 billion to cover 85% of the construction cost, while Egypt will finance the remaining amount via the private sector investments.

Russian nuclear firm Rosatom will finance and construct four third-generation reactors, with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts (MW) each, for a total of 4,800 megawatts. The plant will be built on approximately 12,000 feddans and is expected to create over 50,000 job opportunities.

The Electricity and Renewable Energy Ministry’s Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority will own and manage the project.

Project Importance

The agreement is reflecting the strength of relations between Egypt and Russia.

This project will bring Egypt to the list of owners of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, thus helping it to achieve quantum leaps in many fields.

The nuclear plant is expected to not just cover the country’s energy needs and to produce a surplus which can be exported. It helps Egypt in reducing utilization of fossil fuel which causes air-pollution emissions.

Project Implementation Progress

On November 19, 2022, Head of the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plants Authority, Amjad Al-Wakeel announced that concrete started to be poured for the second reactor with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts. He stressed that concrete will be poured for the remaining two reactors with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts for each reactor successively.

Al-Wakeel added that the first nuclear reactor with a capacity of 1200 megawatts will be operated to generate electricity according to the timetable of the commercial project, in 2028. He further pointed out that the rest of the reactors will be operated successively, in order to be operated at full capacity in 2030. The total capacities generated from nuclear energy on the national electricity grid then will be 4800 megawatts.

Al-Wakeel added that the El-Dabaa nuclear power plant with a capacity of 4,800 megawatts is considered environmentally friendly and enjoys the highest standards of nuclear safety.

Al-Wakeel noted that the project won the second-best project in the world, adding that the government agreement between Egypt and Russia represented by the Russian company Rosatom provides for the establishment of the reactors of the nuclear plant are of the third generation, and this generation contains a simple and reliable design, and is resistant to operator error "the human factor".

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