Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)
Wednesday,20 February, 2019
Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Nuclear laws

Parliament laid the legislative foundation for the construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power station, reports Gamal Essam El-Din 

Egypt’s parliament approved three laws on Monday which allow for the creation of three regulatory bodies on nuclear power, paving the way for the construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant to generate electricity, in Al-Dabaa, west of Alexandria on the North Coast.
The approval came after a five-hour marathon debate in an urgent plenary meeting. 

At the start of the meeting, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal indicated that the vote on the three laws was necessary because the government deemed the matter urgent and asked that it be put to a vote as soon as possible.

 “Article 277 of parliament’s internal bylaws allows the speaker to hold such urgent meetings,” Abdel-Aal said.

A report issued by parliament’s Energy and Environment Committee said the three laws will help revive Egypt’s programme for the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
“This programme began in the mid-1980s but came to a halt after the tragic explosion of the Chernobyl reactor in the Ukraine in 1986,” the report said.

But now the construction of nuclear power stations has become an urgent matter and all necessary safeguards have become available, ensuring that these stations will be built in a safe and secure way, said the report. 

In November 2015, Egypt agreed with Russia to build four nuclear power stations at Al-Dabaa, 130 kilometres northwest of Cairo in Matrouh governorate. The construction of the facility is awaiting final agreement between Moscow and Cairo.

While the legislative framework is being prepared, other paperwork is being finalised. Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker announced last week that the State Council had revised contracts on the four stations, and “it is now up to the political leaderships in Egypt and Russia to finally sign and ratify these contracts.” 

Shaker said he expects that construction at Al-Dabaa will begin at the end of this year.

The Russian state-owned company Rosatom, which will be in charge of implementing the project, said at a press conference on 21 November that both Egypt and Russia will lay the foundation stone of the Al-Dabaa project within two months. 

Russia has given Egypt a $25 billion loan to help build the Al-Dabaa plants, according to Rashid Sadikov, Russia’s consul in Alexandria.

Informed sources said Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin are expected to attend a ceremony within two months marking the beginning of the implementation phase of the plant.

“The approval of the three laws in an urgent meeting means that the final signing of contracts on four nuclear power stations at Al-Dabaa has become very near,” a source said.
Talaat Al-Sewidi, the head of parliament’s Energy and Environment Committee, told reporters that “Al-Dabaa will be Egypt’s first nuclear project and is expected to boost the country’s power capacity by at least 20 per cent.” He added that the project will also make Egypt a major exporter of power to neighbouring countries.

MPs first approved a government-drafted law on the creation of what was labelled the Executive Authority for the Supervision of Nuclear Stations for Electricity Generation.
The authority’s duties will include supervising the performance of contractors employed to build nuclear stations in Egypt, issuing progress reports on nuclear projects, and releasing annual reports on the authority’s finances to be revised by the minister of electricity and parliament’s Energy and Environment Committee.

The Executive Authority will also take charge of the experimental operation of nuclear projects and make sure that they are implemented on time and in coordination with other authorities involved in building nuclear power stations in Egypt.
Following this, the MPs approved amendments to Law 13/1976 which allowed for the creation of an entity by the name of the Authority of Nuclear Power Stations for Electricity Generation. The amendments were approved by parliament’s Energy and Environment Committee in a meeting on Saturday.
A committee’s report explained that the new authority will function under the auspices of the Ministry of Electricity and will be tasked mainly with proposing the construction of nuclear power stations for electricity generation in Egypt, as well as establishing desalination projects.

“This authority will also take charge of conducting studies and research on nuclear stations in Egypt, and drafting the specifications of these stations,” said the report.

 The report explained: “The amendments will also pave the way for the authority to sign contracts with the private sector in Egypt and outside of Egypt in the field of building nuclear power stations,” so long as such agreements do not harm national security.

 According to the amendments, the board of the authority will consist of 10 members to be named by the minister of electricity and ratified by the president.

 The amendments also state that “all equipment, tools, vehicles, spare parts and materials to be imported by the authority will be exempted from any customs duties, and all companies and institutions contracted by the authority will also be granted the same exemptions.”

 A tax exemption will also apply to loans borrowed by the authority from foreign sources for the purpose of building nuclear power projects in Egypt, as well as to contractors and sub-contractors hired by the authority.

Foreign contractors and sub-contractors employed by the authority will also be exempted from any restrictions in terms of foreign workers and profit-share ceilings.

MPs also approved a third law, which is an amendment of a 2010 law (Law 7/2010) related to the regulation of nuclear and radiation-related activities in Egypt. 

This six-article law was first approved by the cabinet in a meeting on 20 September before approval by parliament on Monday.
The law changes the name of a regulatory body originally created in 2012 to supervise nuclear and radiation-related activities in Egypt. This new body, now dubbed the Authority of Control on Nuclear and Radiation Activities, grants it more flexibility to oversee nuclear and radiation-related activities, ensuring adherence to the latest technological methods.

 “This is especially necessary before Egypt begins building the country’s first nuclear power station at Al-Dabaa,” said a committee report. 

Al-Sewidi said that parliament and the government are now moving by leaps and bounds to pave the way for the construction of the four nuclear power stations at Al-Dabaa. 

“All the legislative amendments related to nuclear activities will help implement the Al-Dabaa project on time and without facing any legislative obstacles or financial impediments,” Al-Sewidi said.

The laws passed by parliament Monday must be ratified by the president before going into effect.

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