Egypt approves deal with Russia to build first nuclear power plant

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 6 Sep 2017

File photo: Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi during a meeting in Cairo February 10, 2015 (Reuters)

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said on Tuesday that the contract with Russia to build the Dabaa nuclear power station has been finalised and approved by the cabinet.

"Right now, the State Council is revising the final contracts on station maintenance and fuel, and that the two countries will lay the foundation stone at Dabaa very soon," said El-Sherif.

Newly appointed chairman of the State Council judge Ahmed Abul-Azm said that "the revision will be marked with transparency to ensure that the contracts go in line with Egypt’s constitution and laws."

On Monday, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced that Egypt had finalised the agreement with Russia to build a nuclear power plant at El-Dabaa, about 130 kilometres northwest of Cairo along the Mediterranean coast.

El-Sisi has also invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend a celebration marking the beginning of construction of the nuclear power station.

In May 2015, Egypt signed the agreement with Russia to build the four-reactor power plant.

Egypt will receive a $25 billion Russian loan to cover 85 percent of the plant, with a capacity of 4,800 MW. The plan will be implemented by Russian state-owned company Rosatom.

Talaat El-Sewedi, the head of parliament's industrial committee, told Ahram Online that the deal marks a significant development in relations between Egypt and Russia.

"Some claimed in recent weeks that Russia's refusal to resume direct air flights to Egypt have made relations between the two countries very cold," said El-Sewedi. "But what we saw during the BRICS summit in China this week shows that Egypt and Russia are on the road to building strategic relations."

El-Sewedi, who led a parliamentary delegation in a visit to Russia last April, said that "the remaining Dabaa contracts on maintenance and fuel are very important because they aim to ensure the utmost safety benchmarks and the continued provision of fuel for the Dabaa station."

El-Sewedi said that the final signing of the deal could be followed by Russia resuming its direct flights to Egypt.

"We expect that the Dabaa nuclear contract will bring Egypt and Russia much closer in terms of politics, economic development and investment and tourism," said El-Sewedi, adding that the project will help Egypt diversify its sources of energy.

"[Egypt] has very ambitious plans to tap all sources of energy to cover the country's growing power needs over the next 50 years," said El-Sewedi.

Russia has previously signed a $10 billion deal with Jordan to build the kingdom's first nuclear power plant, and has signed deals with Iran to build two more nuclear power stations in the country.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also announced that they are looking to invest in nuclear power stations.

Operation on the first Dabaa reactor is expected to begin within nine years.

Hussein El-Shafie, manager of the Egyptian Russian Foundation for Culture and Science, told the private TV channel Sada El-Balad on Tuesday that the loan provided by Russia to cover 85 percent of the Dabaa project will be paid over 22 years at an interest rate of 3 percent.

"Egypt will begin repaying the loan in 2029, though by that time the Dabaa nuclear reactors will have generated $17 billion in sovereign revenues for the government of Egypt," said El-Shafie.

"The Dabaa deal marks a significant political and economic shift in relations between Egypt and Russia," said El-Shafie.

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