Nuclear Power in Egypt

(Updated December 2017)

  • Egypt has considered establishing nuclear power since the 1960s.
  • It plans to build four large Russian nuclear power reactors with significant desalination capacity.

Egypt produced 172 TWh gross of electricity in 2015, of which 135 TWh (78%) came from gas, 38 TWh from oil, and 13 TWh from hydro. Per capita electricity consumption came to about 1600 kWh in 20161. Energy demand growth is significant – 4-7% per year. In 2015 installed generating capacity was an estimated 39 GWe2.

Egypt has long been reliant on natural gas for power generation. Annual domestic production of gas peaked in 2009 at 62.7 billion cubic metres (bcm), and had declined to 41.8 bcm by 20163. Over the same period, the country's gas consumption rose from 42.5 to 51.3 bcm3. Supply constraints have arisen after the government halted new exploration contracts following popular uprisings in 2011 and 2013. As a result, there are now significant gas supply constraints, particularly for heavy industry, as the government has prioritised supplies to domestic consumers.

Energy policy

Egypt set up its Atomic Energy Commission in 1955. In 1964 a 150 MWe nuclear plant with 20,000 m3/day desalination capacity was proposed, then in 1974 a 600 MWe plant was proposed for Sidi Kreir near Alexandria. The government's Nuclear Power Plants Authority (NPPA) was then established in 1976, and in 1978 plans were drawn up for ten reactors by 1999 with 7200 MWe capacity, at Sidi Kreir, Al Arish, Cairo and in Upper Egypt. Talks then with French, German and Austrian interests as well as Westinghouse came to nothing.

In 1983 the El Dabaa site on the Mediterranean coast – 170 km west of Alexandria and Zafraana on the Gulf of Suez – was selected to host a nuclear plant. Germany's KWU, Framatome and Westinghouse tendered to provide reactors for El Dabaa, and Australia and Niger agreed to supply uranium. The plan was aborted following the 1986 Chernobyl accident. 

Over 1999-2001 the NPPA carried out a feasibility study for a cogeneration plant for electricity and desalination, updating it in 2003. New nuclear cooperation agreements were signed with Russia in 2004 and 2008, reviving Egypt's plans for a nuclear power and desalination plant, supported by Rosatom. In October 2006 the Minister for Energy announced that a 1000 MWe reactor would be built at El-Dabaa by 2015. 

In December 2008, following an international tender, the Energy & Electricity Ministry awarded a $180 million contract to Bechtel to choose the reactor technology, choose the site for the plant, train operating personnel, and provide technical services over some ten years. However, in May 2009 the government transferred this contract to WorleyParsons, who signed it in June with NPPA for $160 million over eight years to support the establishment of a 1200 MWe nuclear plant. The contract included site surveys and regional analysis to identify potential sites, comparing and ranking them, and developing technical specifications for a planned tender. At the time the ministry said that Egypt aimed to begin generating nuclear electricity in 2017. 

By early 2010 the proposal had expanded to four units by 2025. In March 2010 a legislative framework to regulate nuclear installations and activities in order to ensure the protection of facilities, individuals and property was signed into law. The first unit was expected to cost about $4 billion. In 2011 plans were put on hold until the country’s political situation stabilised.

In April 2013 Egypt approached Russia to renew its nuclear cooperation agreement, focused on construction of a nuclear power plant at El Dabaa and joint development of uranium deposits. In October 2013 the Minister for Electricity & Energy reactivated plans for El Dabaa, and announced an NPPA site there. The Russian Foreign Minister said in November 2013 that Russia was ready to finance an Egyptian nuclear plant. In January 2014 the ministry said it would issue a tender, using WorleyParsons as consultants. In mid-2014 the target date for the tender was December 2014, and it was made clear that the winner would need to finance the plant. The tender would be for two units of 900 to 1650 MWe each on a turnkey basis. The El Dabaa site, situated close to El Alamein, is deemed suitable for eight reactors.

In February 2015 a further agreement was signed between Rosatom and the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy, in which they "agreed to launch detailed discussions on the prospective project," involving construction of two 1200 MWe nuclear power units, with the prospect of two more. More specifically, Rusatom Overseas and NPPA also signed a project development agreement for a two-unit AES-2006 nuclear power plant with desalination facility. Rosatom submitted a bid to build four 1200 MWe reactors at El Dabaa in June 2015. 

In November 2015 an intergovernmental agreement was signed with Russia to build and operate the four reactors, including fuel supply, used fuel, training and development of regulatory infrastructure. The government also ordered preparations for construction of the units to begin in 2016. A financing agreement for a Russian state export loan was signed, covering 80% of the cost, with repayment over 22 years from 2029. In May 2016 the government announced that the loan was for $25 billion, to cover 85% of the cost of four 1200 MWe units, with repayments to start upon commissioning. In December 2017 notices to proceed with contracts for the construction of the four units were signed. Local content for the first unit is expected to be about 20%, increasing for subsequent ones.

Atomstroyexport quotes the El Dabaa reactors as 3200 MWt, 1190 MWe gross for power generation only, using warm seawater for cooling. However, with desalination (multiple-effect distillation and reverse osmosis) taking 432 MWt from the secondary circuit, they would be 1050 MWe gross, 927 MWe net. They will be designated V-529, a warm-water version of the V-491 at Leningrad II.

Nuclear facilities

Reactors planned in Egypt

Site Type MWe gross Construction start
El Dabaa 1 VVER-1200/V-529 1190/1050 TBC
El Dabaa 2 VVER-1200/V-529 1190/1050 TBC
El Dabaa 3 VVER-1200/V-529 1190/1050 TBC
El Dabaa 4 VVER-1200/V-529 1190/1050 TBC
Total (4)   4760/4200  

Each reactor is nominally 1190 MWe gross, but effectively 1050 MWe gross for power if with major desalination function.

Apart from Russia, nuclear cooperation agreements are in place with China (2006) and South Korea (2013). In May 2015 China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signed an agreement with NPPA to enhance nuclear cooperation and to “become an official partner” in the country’s nuclear project.

The new plant will require 1500 km of 500 kV transmission line, and this was under construction late in 2016. As well as addressing power supplies, the NPPA expects to have four nuclear desalination plants operating by 2025.

In July 2015 it was reported that Korea Electric Power Co and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) were making a combined bid to build 4000-6000 MWe in Egypt. Other proposals from China are reported. In November 2015 the government said the second set of four units would be put out to international tender.

In November 2016 NPPA was working with WorleyParsons on a two-year project in the El Nagila area 80km east of Port Said to identify a suitable site for a second nuclear power plant.

Research and development

Egypt has a 1961 vintage 2 MWt Russian research reactor at Inshas, serviced by Russia but currently in long-term shutdown; and a 22 MWt Argentinian research reactor (ETRR-2) partly supported by Russia that started up in 1997.

Egypt set up its own Atomic Energy Commission in 1955, which became the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority (EAEA) the following year. It consists of three major centres – the Nuclear Research Centre (NRC), the National Centre for Radiation Research and Technology (NCRRT) and the Hot Laboratories and Waste Management Centre (HLWMC) – in addition to hosting the ETRR-2 and a cyclotron accelerator.

Regulatory framework

The Nuclear Regulatory and Safety Committee was established in 1982. As part of the reorganisation of the EAEA in 1991, this committee formed the National Center of Nuclear Safety and Radiation Control (NCNSRC) within the EAEA. In 2010, the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority (ENRRA) was established as an independent nuclear regulatory body.

In 2015 a cooperation agreement was signed between Russia’s Rostechnadzor and ENRRA.

Non-proliferation

Egypt signed the NPT in 1968, but until 1981 refused to ratify it unless Israel did. This caused plans in the 1970s to come to nothing. It has not signed the Additional Protocol.


Notes and references

References

1. Electricity data from International Energy Agency's Electricity Information 2017. Per capita consumption calculated using 2016 population information from World Bank Open Data. [Back]

2. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook. [Back]

3. BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017 [Back]

General references

Y. Muralev, MAEK-Kazatomprom, Proposal of Desalination Technology Selection for Nuclear Power and Desalination Plant, presented at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Technical Meeting on the User-Vendor Interface in Cogeneration for Electricity Production and Seawater Desalination held in Vienna, Austria on 14-16 March 2016


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