Egypt postpones nuclear power plant due to tensions with Russia over Nile dam

Egypt announced the postponement of the completion of the El-Dabaa nuclear power plant project to 2030 instead of 2028. The spokesman for the Egyptian nuclear and radiology supervisory authority, Karim al-Adham, confirmed in statements to the Egyptian business newspaper Enterprise on the 14th that it would not be closed before 2030 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Adham said construction on the nuclear power plant won’t begin for another year as regulators are likely to issue licenses to build the power plant by mid-2022. These licenses should be issued in the second half of 2021.

The newspaper said Adham refused to provide any further information about the reasons for the delay. He contented himself with blaming the pandemic for delaying some proceedings and denying financial obstacles.

Egypt signed a contract in 2015 in which Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear power giant, was commissioned to build the 4.8 gigawatt nuclear power plant. The investment cost of the project is $ 30 billion, 85% of which is funded by a $ 25 billion Russian loan.

The announcement of the postponement of the completion of the El-Dabaa nuclear power plant coincides with tensions in relations between Egypt and Russia. In his address on July 8 at the United Nations Security Council meeting on the Ethiopian Great Renaissance Dam (GERD) crisis, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, expressed his country’s concern about the increasingly threatening rhetoric in the country Crisis. His statements backfired and sparked controversy in the Egyptian media that supported the government agency. Ethiopia also officially thanked Russia for its support in the GERD crisis.

On July 9, journalist Amr Adib, known for his support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, berated Moscow during a broadcast on MBC. He criticized the statements made by the Russian delegate on the GERD crisis as unacceptable. Adib noted that Russia opposed the threatening language, which means it opposed the military solution and called for negotiations.

Egypt’s postponement of the full completion date of the El-Dabaa nuclear power plant project delayed the construction of the first reactor in the power plant to 2028 instead of 2026. The El-Dabaa power plant consists of four nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts. 1,200 MW per reactor.

The Egyptian dream of building a nuclear power plant dates back to 1955 when the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser knocked on the door of the nuclear future. He signed the Atoms for Peace agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation with the Soviet Union. The following year, Egypt signed a treaty with the Soviet Union for its first nuclear reactor.

But when President Anwar Sadat took power in 1974, the prospects of realizing this dream project dwindled amid tensions with the former Soviet Union. Sadat turned to the United States to build the nuclear power plant, and in 1976 a cooperation agreement was signed with the United States. However, no steps have been taken to implement this project.

In 2002, the former Egyptian President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak announced the intention of Egypt to build a peaceful nuclear power plant in cooperation with South Korea and China within eight years. The project was also suspended due to disagreements over the suitability of the Dabaa area. In 2009, negotiations on the nuclear power plant with the Australian company Worley Parsons were resumed. They came to a standstill with the outbreak of the January 25th revolution that overthrew Mubarak.

However, the dream resurfaced when Egyptian interim president Adly Mansour announced that his country was taking steps to commission its first nuclear power plant in Dabaa.

Regarding the recent tensions between Egypt and Russia, Tarek Fahmy, professor of political science at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor that they have always been unstable due to several factors. “This reflected the stability of joint economic and investment projects between the two countries,” he said.

Fahmy noted: “The postponement of the completion of the El-Dabaa nuclear project is certainly related to the tensions between Egypt and Russia. This tension became evident after the Russian position in the Security Council meeting on GERD and after Ethiopia’s announcement that it would sign a military agreement with Russia. “

On July 12, Ethiopia and Russia signed a military cooperation agreement at the end of the 11th session of the Ethiopian-Russian Forum for Technical Cooperation.

However, Fahmy argued that Russia could have signed its military agreement with Ethiopia to anger Egypt. “Moscow feels that Egypt ranks second after Washington. In addition, despite Russia’s threats to shoot invading ships, Egypt took part in the Sea Breeze naval exercise in the Black Sea region. “

Joint naval exercises began on June 28. They were received by the United States and Ukrainian navies in the Black Sea off the disputed Crimean peninsula between Russia and Ukraine.

Hesham Hegazy, head of the nuclear fuel sector of the Egyptian nuclear power plant authority, had affirmed in statements on July 12 that the Egyptian nuclear program would not be limited to the construction of the El-Dabaa power plant project. He said a number of nuclear projects in the north coast region are in the pipeline.

However, Fahmy believes that at some point Russia and Egypt will reach an agreement and complete the nuclear power project. “Cairo wants to finish it as soon as possible, and Moscow is also aware of the importance of its relationship with Egypt,” he concluded.

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