A delegation of 16 MPs visited Moscow last week for talks with Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy giant Rosatom, the company that will construct Egypt’s first nuclear power station at the Dabaa, 130km northwest of Cairo. The delegation from the Industry and Energy Committee, headed by committee chair Talaat Al-Seweidi, also visited a giant Russian nuclear reactor in St Petersburg.
Alaa Sallam, the secretary-general of parliament’s Environment and Energy Committee, said in a statement on 16 April that following the MPs’ visit Egypt and Russia have moved closer to signing the final contract for the Dabaa reactor.
“I hope the contract will be signed this summer,” said Salaam.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi oversaw the initial agreement signed by Egypt and Russia for a nuclear power plant in November 2015.
Salaam said the six-day visit was at the invitation of Rosatom which built the St Petersburg reactor.
“The St Petersburg visit showed that although this [Russian] plant is 60 years old it is still operating at 100 per cent capacity and at the highest safety levels,” said Sallam. He added that the reactor was completely automated to guarantee the highest level of risk-free operation.
“The Egyptian delegation also made sure the reactor was environment-friendly and did not produce pollutants,” said Sallam.
Sallam said Egypt had selected Rosatom as its partner in the project because of the company’s long experience of nuclear power projects in other countries and because it offered favourable financial terms.
Egypt’s Dabaa reactor will be able to withstand earthquakes of up to force nine on the Richter scale, and the crash of a 400-tonne aeroplane, according to Sallam. He added that Dabaa is an ideal site for Egypt’s first nuclear power plant because it is “far from any earthquake-active regions, and distant from densely populated areas”.
The plant will create over 50,000 jobs, he claimed.
“This reactor, which will be composed of four nuclear power units with a total generation capacity of 4,800 megawatts, will be built over eight years. It will not only give Egypt a clean source of energy but help the country become a pioneer in nuclear energy in the long-run.”
Sallam added that the nuclear waste generated by the plant will be handled by an international company specialised in its disposal.
“Nuclear power reactors like the one in Dabaa are designed not to emit any gas pollutants or cause any greenhouse effect,” said Sallam.
“After this visit to Russia I am more convinced than ever that building the Dabaa nuclear reactor is a very progressive step for Egypt.”
Delegation member Al-Sayed Hegazi told the Russian news agency Sputnik the contract for the construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant could be signed as early as May.
“Egypt urgently needs to switch to nuclear power and other renewable energy sources which are environmentally friendly,” said Hegazi. “We are visiting Russia to ensure the Dabaa project begins to be implemented as soon as possible.”
Hegazi said the Egyptian delegation also met Russian parliamentarians to discuss bilateral cooperation.
“There has been a lot of cooperation between MPs in Egypt and Russia and it is good that a joint Egyptian-Russian Parliamentary Friendship Association was formed,” he said.
Russia and Egypt signed an intergovernmental agreement on the construction of the Dabaa plant in November 2015.
Minister of Energy Mohamed Shaker announced in February that Russia will provide Egypt with a loan worth $25 billion to finance the construction and operation of the Dabaa project, to be repaid over 13 years.
In March local media reports cited an official saying signing of the contract could take place in June.
Independent nuclear energy experts have recently begun to voice criticisms of Egypt’s plan to switch to nuclear power. Mahmoud Ashour, head of the Nuclear Power Teaching and Research Club, told the press he fears Russia might seek to exploit the Dabaa reactor to exercise political pressure on Egypt. “Nuclear power is also very expensive for an economically weak country like Egypt, especially at a time when renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind are becoming cheaper by the day.”