El-Daba’a nuclear power plant, Egypt’s first-ever nuclear power station, will contribute to attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include generating clean energy, increasing dependence on low-carbon sources of energy, and creating many jobs during the construction phase, said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in a recent report carried by the Cabinet Information and Decision Support Centre.
The report, ‘Egypt on the verge of achieving the nuclear dream after over 60 years’, highlighted Egypt’s strenuous infrastructure development efforts to serve its national nuclear programme, which receives significant support from the government.
In pursuance of Egypt’s vision and strategy for acquiring nuclear power technology and achieving its nuclear power dream on the ground, the state has committed itself to optimising its resources by adopting well-balanced approaches aimed at creating the best conditions and overcoming any challenges facing its bold nuclear programme, according to Ali Abdel Nabi, a nuclear energy expert and former vice chairman of the Nuclear Power Plants Authority in Egypt.
The project is part of government plans to diversify new and renewable sources of energy, ensuring sustainable economic growth, and supporting its relentless efforts for addressing climate change, Abdel Nabi told local press, noting the project’s critical role in protecting the national economy from a volatile global energy market.
The Egyptian nuclear project may include the construction of 30, 40, or 50 nuclear reactors, he said, pointing out that 4 Russian nuclear reactors are currently being built at the el-Daba’a station, each with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts.
In a report published in 2022, Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, which is responsible for constructing the first 4.8 MW NNP in the Matrouh Governorate on the Mediterranean coast, 250km west of Alexandria, said the project is expected to improve efficiency of the national power supply system.
Meanwhile, the General Electric Company has predicted that the project will contribute Egypt’s plan for diversifying its energy sources by building a reliable carbon-free power supply network, according to the author of the report.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin two weeks ago virtually participated in the foundation-laying ceremony of a new unit of the el-Daba’a Nuclear Power Plant.
In July 2022, Egypt began constructing the el-Daba’a nuclear power plant, the country’s first nuclear power station, which is located in the Mediterranean province of Matrouh, some 300 km northwest of Cairo.
The programme is based on an agreement between Egypt and Russia that entered into force in December 2017. The project includes the building of four reactor units, each with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, at a total construction cost of $28.75 billion.
Yousri Abu Shadi, the former head of the nuclear engineering department at the University of Alexandria, believes nuclear power is essential to achieve energy security, adding that Egypt’s nuclear programme is progressing well, blaming successive governments for long delays.
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 co-operation 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 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 Sadat to turn his eyes to Europe, specifically France.
In the 1980s after the assassination of Sadat, President Hosni Mubarak decided to go ahead with the nuclear project and el-Daba’a area was selected as the location of the first nuclear power plant, but Chernobyl reactor accident in 1986 delayed the project indefinitely.
In 2007, Mubarak announced resumption of Egypt’s nuclear programme in the area of el-Daba’a. The government signed a contract with an Australian company in 2009 to review the project’s studies and appropriateness of el-Daba’a area for construction of the nuclear reactor.
The results of the studies which were prepared by the Australian company, in co-operation with the nuclear plants body and IAEA, accredited el-Daba’a 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, as well as electricity and communications utilities.
On November 19, 2015, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed an agreement for construction of el-Daba’a plant in western Egypt, the country’s first-ever nuclear energy project. The el-Daba’a 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 this year.
The contracts stipulate that Russia will 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 roughly $20 billion.
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.
The project won the second-best project in the world, Head of the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plants Authority, Amjad el-Wakeel said. He added 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.
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 4,800 megawatts.
The el-Daba’a nuclear power plant with a capacity of 4,800 megawatts is considered environmentally friendly and enjoys the highest standards of nuclear safety.