Russia’s state atomic energy corporation Rosatom has launched the construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant, a $25-billion project billed as the largest venture between the two countries in decades.
Egyptian Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker and Rosatom chief Alexey Likhachev on Wednesday poured concrete into what will serve as the base for the El-Dabaa power plant, according to a Rosatom statement.
The El-Dabaa plant, which lies about 300 kilometres (190 miles) northwest of Cairo on the Mediterranean coast, is planned to consist of four reactor units each with a 1,200 Megawatt generating capacity.
The construction launch “means that Egypt has joined the nuclear club,” Likhachev said, according to Rosatom.
“The plant will be the largest project of Russian-Egyptian cooperation since the Aswan High Dam”, Likhachev said, while Shaker called it an “historic event” for his country, the statement added.
The 111-metre-high and 3.6-kilometre-wide Aswan High Dam, harnessing the Nile river for hydropower and irrigation, was a key project in the early 1950s of pan-Arabist president Gamal Abdel Nasser — and was built with Soviet support.
Egypt had already considered building a nuclear power plant in El-Dabaa in the 1980s, but the project was suspended after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
In May, Finnish-led consortium Fennovoima said it had terminated a contract with Rosatom to build Finland’s third nuclear power plant, citing risks linked to the Ukraine war.
Egypt, however, which has not clearly sided with either Russia or Ukraine following the start of the conflict, is pressing ahead with a plan launched in 2015 to become a civilian nuclear power.
Construction began ahead of a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is due in Cairo on Sunday to meet with the 22-member Arab League.
The project is expected to cost around $25 billion euros, according to the Egyptian press, paid with a loan from Moscow.
The nuclear programme is a flagship initiative of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi alongside other mega-projects, including a new capital rising out of the sands east of Cairo.