As the final contracts for Egypt’s first nuclear power plant at El Dabaa are about to be signed, Egypt is soon set to benefit fr om some of the most advanced technologies in the world, it appears to be the time to take a closer look at what Egypt’s choice of Rosatom as the main contractor for the project means for the country.
According to the Egyptian side, Rosatom’s proposal for Egypt’s first NPP was selected out of several other vendors’ offers on account of a combination of factors, which included, in addition to technical specifications, the proposed financial terms, and the ability to provide assistance in the development of Egypt’s nuclear infrastructure.
As part of its integrated offer, Rosatom pledged not only to handle all technical aspects of the project – from NPP construction to assistance in its operation and maintenance and waste management – but also to provide any necessary assistance in establishing and developing Egypt’s nuclear infrastructure. This includes advisory support on creating the legislative infrastructure for the peaceful use of nuclear power, technology and knowledge transfer and, above all, creating qualified cadre for Egypt’s burgeoning nuclear industry.
Egypt and Russia already have a history of technical and educational cooperation going back decades and the Egyptian nuclear programme continues the tradition, with joint nuclear courses and exchange programmes at leading Russian nuclear universities available to Egyptian students. This paves the way for a new generation of talented young specialists from a wide range of nuclear-related fields to take Egypt’s science and technology potential to a new level.
That said, Egypt’s prime consideration for the project was and is of course its safety. Egypt’s leadership has on multiple occasions expressed its trust and confidence in Russian nuclear technologies, with President As-Sisi commenting that ‘the agreements on the NPP construction guarantee the compliance with the most modern international standards and specifications to ensure its safety, making it one of the safest NPPs in the world.’
The El Dabaa NPP will feature four Generation 3+ power units of the VVER-1200 type, which are among the most advanced nuclear power reactors in the world and are distinguished by their enhanced safety features and innovations.
They meet the most stringent international safety and security standards and were designed to withstand the most severe conditions and the most extreme circumstances imaginable. The first operational power unit of the kind – Unit 6 of the Novovoronezh NPP in central Russia – underwent numerous stress tests simulating events far more hypothetically unlikely than those that occurred during the incident at the Fukushima NPP.
The El Dabaa NPP will meet even higher technical requirement. Specifically, it will be designed to withstand such catastrophic events as a total power loss for 72 hours and collision with a large commercial aircraft (a medium-sized aircraft in the Novovoronezh NPP), without posing a threat to the environment or human health.
Considering how implausible these types of scenarios are in real life, it is perfectly safe to say that the people of Egypt and the residents of the El Dabaa region specifically have nothing to worry about when it comes to the NPP’s safety. Unit 6 of the Novovoronezh NPP was visited shortly after its launch by the head of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) Jacques Regaldo, who commended the design and its safety features.
In the spring of 2017, members of Egypt’s parliament visited the site of the Leningrad NPP near St Petersburg, wh ere another VVER-1200 Generation 3+ unit is under construction, and spoke enthusiastically about the technology they saw on display.
The head of Egyptian parliament’s Energy Committee Talaat El Swedi expressed his confidence about the technology that is to be implemented in the El Dabaa NPP project.
“We’ve seen for ourselves and we want to let the people of Egypt know that the future Egyptian NPP will be safe and financially feasible,” he said.
Later in 2017, the same site was inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukia Amano, who was impressed by the unit’s safety features to comment, ‘The VVER-1200 unit’s multi-level safety system produces a very powerful impression – in the event one system fails, another comes into effect, which is very correctly done.’
With testaments to the VVER-1200 technology’s safety and innovation coming from such diverse and authoritative quarters as heads of international energy associations and Egypt’s own experts, the people of Egypt can rest assured they’re getting the best in nuclear power generation and safety technologies for their country as Egypt’s nuclear dream is about to come true.