Countdown to Dabaa

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 7 Jul 2022

The construction of the first reactor at Egypt’s Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant begins this month.



The Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority (ENRRA) announced on 29 June that it has granted the long-awaited permit to begin the construction of Egypt’s first nuclear reactor at the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) west of Alexandria.

The ENRRA said the permit was issued to the country’s Nuclear Power Plants Authority (NPPA). “It is a historic step and opens the door for the beginning of the construction of the first of the four planned reactors at the NPP, which will be only the second to be built on the African continent [after South Africa’s Koeberg NPP],” the ENRRA statement said.

NPPA Chairperson Amgad Al-Wakeel said the NPPA had applied for construction permits for Dabaa Unit 1 and Unit 2 in January 2019, while the applications for permits for Unit 3 and Unit 4 were submitted on 30 December 2021.

The Dabaa site is located on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast some 320 km northwest of Cairo and 135 km west of Alexandria.

The NPP will be built by the Russian state-owned integrated company Rosatom, under contracts which entered into force in December 2017.

Rosatom will build a state-of-the-art plant with reactors to the Russian VVER-1200 innovative Generation III+ design, according to Rosatom Director-General Alexey Likhachov, who added that the plant would meet the highest safety standards.

“Dabaa will be the first NPP of this generation on the African continent, and it will further secure Egypt’s regional technological leadership,” Likhachov said. He indicated that the construction of the first reactor at the Dabaa plant was scheduled to begin in July.

Under contracts between the NPPA and Rosatom, the latter will help train the Egyptian personnel who will operate and maintain the Dabaa NPP. Rosatom will also help with the maintenance of the NPP for the first decade of its operation. The Russian group will supply Dabaa with nuclear fuel throughout the NPP’s life.

Rosatom will also construct a spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Dabaa, as well as supply the containers in which the used fuel will be stored.

Al-Wakeel said that the construction of the nuclear reactors would be under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). “The supervision of the IAEA as well as the ENRRA’s permit were necessary steps before we begin the actual construction of the first reactor on the ground,” he said, adding that “the four-unit plant will be operating at a full capacity of 4,800 Megawatts by 2030.”

The first Unit (reactor) will operate at a capacity of 1,200 Megawatts first, while the remaining three reactors will operate at full capacity by 2030.

The beginning of the construction of the Dabaa reactors comes after seven years of Russia and Egypt signing a cooperation protocol on the building and operation of the Dabaa NPP in November 2015.

In December 2017, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an agreement in Cairo opening the door for starting work on the plant at a construction cost of $28.75 billion.

Al-Wakeel said the project was expected to generate net revenues of $264 billion for the state treasury over 60 years.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 July, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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