Talks in Moscow on Egypt’s nuclear dreams

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 5 Aug 2021

Egypt’s Dabaa nuclear power plant was the subject of intensive talks in Russia this week

The signing of the Dabaa nuclear power plant agreement  in 2017
The signing of the Dabaa nuclear power plant agreement in 2017

Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker visited Moscow this week to discuss progress in building Egypt’s Dabaa nuclear power plant (DNPP) with Russian officials.

Shaker, heading a high-level technical delegation, met with Alexey Likhachev, director-general of Rosatom, the Russian company which is building the DNPP west of Alexandria.

The delegation included Chairman of the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plants Authority (NPPA) Amgad Al-Wakil, chairman of the Egyptian Agency for Nuclear and Radiological Regulation Sami Attallah, and a number of nuclear specialists and technicians.

Shaker, who left Cairo on 28 July, attended a joint ceremony on Saturday to celebrate the manufacturing of the first long-term equipment for the DNPP.

Together with his accompanying delegation, Shaker visited Volgodonsk and Samara, Russian cities where the Atommach and Tyazhmash companies in charge of manufacturing the first core components of Egypt’s nuclear power plant are located.

An official statement said that “Shaker and the delegation reviewed the manufacturing of the Egyptian nuclear power plant’s main components and took note of the other products manufactured by the two companies.”

Atommach said in a statement that the Egyptian delegation’s tour had also covered the Atomenergomash plant, responsible for manufacturing the reactor’s compressor vessel, and the Tagmash plant, responsible for manufacturing the reactor’s core. During the visit, the Egyptian specialists also reviewed the welding of the reactor parts, hydraulic tests, and various other operations, the statement added.

Al-Wakil said the reactor’s “core catcher” was distinctive for its advanced third-generation technology, to which the Dabaa project belongs. “All the technical stages of the core catcher’s manufacture are carried out within the Russian Federation, and logistical measures will then be taken to transfer it to the Dabaa site,” Al-Wakil said.

The manufacture of the reactor’s “core catcher” is a major milestone in the implementation of the Dabaa project and comes as part of a series of achievements and concerted efforts by the Egyptian and Russian technical teams.

Shaker said the delegation’s visit reflected Egypt’s friendly relations with Russia. Egypt’s friendship with Russia goes back to the 1950s and 1960s when a decision was made by late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser to build the Aswan High Dam in partnership with the former Soviet Union.

 Choosing Russia to construct Egypt’s first nuclear power plant was a natural development of this partnership, Shaker said.

He said that Egypt was planning to build a number of other nuclear power reactors on the North Coast as part of a strategy to diversify its sources of electricity, particularly by building nuclear reactors.

 “We visited the factories in charge of producing the equipment and saw that everything is proceeding according to schedule and that Egypt’s nuclear dream is moving forward with the full support of the political leadership in Egypt,” Shaker said, indicating that the plant’s first unit will be built next year and is scheduled to enter into service in 2026.

The minister said there had been much positive progress in the implementation of the Dabaa plant, as the Egyptian-Russian team had been able to deliver the documents necessary for the construction permit for the first and second units of the plant to the Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority at the end of June.

Alexander Voronkov, director of Rosatom Middle East and Africa, said Egypt’s first nuclear power plant at Dabaa was one of the most important Rosatom projects in the Middle East and Africa. The company was proud to be responsible for implementing the project, he said.

Shaker’s visit to Russia came just days after Egyptian and Russian officials paid a working visit to the construction site at Dabaa. The delegation was led by Shaker and Rosatom Director-General Alexey Likhachov. It followed Rosatom’s announcement on 1 July that it was happy that the relevant permits for the construction of the plant had been delivered, since full-scale construction could now start.

Likhachov said that Egyptian and Russian teams were working closely together and that “such coordinated work has culminated in perhaps the most important event in the current stage of the Dabaa project with the handover to the regulator at the end of June of the entire package of documentation necessary to obtain the permits for the construction of the first two units.”

As well as visiting the construction site, the Rosatom delegation also inspected the port facilities that are planned to be used to transport heavy equipment from Russia to the reactor units at Dabaa. The Rosatom officials also assessed the “social infrastructure” necessary to support the project.

The Dabaa project is based on contracts between Egypt and Russia that entered into force on 11 December 2017. These stipulate that Rosatom will not only build the plant, but will also supply Russian nuclear fuel for its entire life cycle. It will also assist Egyptian partners in training personnel and plant maintenance for the first 10 years of the plant’s operation.

Rosatom is also contracted to build a special storage facility and supply containers for storing used nuclear fuel.

Grigory Sosnin, vice-president and director of the Dabaa project at Rosatom, said the DNPP would be the first project of its kind in Egypt. It will consist of four 4,800 Megawatt-capacity power units, each equipped with a generation three plus 1,200 MW reactor — the latest nuclear technology — which has already been successfully implemented in two other countries and is in line with requirements stipulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Hossameddin Saleh, chair of parliament’s Energy Committee, said in a statement this week that the visit of Shaker to Russia signalled the growing strategic relations between Egypt and Russia.

There had also been an Egyptian delegation visiting Moscow and signing a preliminary agreement to expand the Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal Zone, Saleh said, also indicating that direct charter flights between Russian cities and the two Egyptian Red Sea resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume this week after a suspension of six years.

“All these developments show that the future is promising for Egyptian-Russian relations and that Egypt will be the main strategic partner for Russia in Africa and the Middle East for years to come,” Saleh concluded.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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