40 years on, El Dabaa progresses

3 January 2019

There has been talk of building a nuclear power plant at Egypt’s El Dabaa site in the Matrouh governorate on the Mediterranean coast for about four decades, but following the signing of a what was described as a “notice to proceed” by Rosatom and the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity in December 2017, some significant progress has been made, with operation of the first unit pencilled in for 2026. The agreement between Russia and Egypt has been described as “the biggest non-feedstock deal in Russian history.”

The El Dabaa plant will eventually have four “Generation III+” VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors (also referred to as an AES-2006 power plant by the Russians). The reference unit for El Dabaa is Leningrad phase II, where unit 1 is expected to enter commercial operation very soon.

Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on 18 October that the Russian Finance Ministry may use the National Wealth Fund (NWF) to lend money for construction of the plant. The funds held by Russia’s NWF are expected to reach about 7% of GDP at the end of 2019, up from 2.2% of GDP at the end of 2018, opening the way to large investments in big projects.

In October Assystem of France announced that Rosatom had awarded it a contract to assist the main contractor, Atomstroyexport (part of the Rosatom group), in obtaining “the necessary licences and permits in order to build the NPP.” Assystem says it is “committed to help newcomer countries to develop nuclear energy and partner major nuclear players in exporting their expertise beyond their own borders.”

Also in October, GE announced it won the contract to deliver the turbine island equipment for El Dabaa through AAEM its joint venture with Atomenergomash set up in 2007. This was originally a joint venture with Alstom, the power businesses of which (including Arabelle steam turbine technology) were acquired by GE in 2015.

GE says it will perform the basic design of the four conventional islands for El Dabaa, supply four nuclear turbine generator sets, with Arabelle half-speed steam turbines powering Gigatop 4 pole generators, and provide technical expertise for the on-site installation and commissioning.

Earlier this year it was announced that EDF and GE had signed a strategic co- operation agreement envisaging the supply of Arabelle turbine technology to NPCIL’s planned Jaitapur 6 x 1650 MWe EPR megaproject in India (Maharashtra), which, with an installed capacity approaching 10 GW, would rank as the world’s largest nuclear power station should the project come to fruition.

The agreement was described as laying “the foundations for a long term partnership concerning the construction of the conventional island for each of the six reactor units”, with GE designing the conventional island and supply its main components.

EDF and GE Power said they would “move forward with the work currently being performed to freeze the project’s technical options, fine-tune industrial arrangements between both companies and finalise the design-engineering and procurement schedule.” 

Arabelle steam turbine
VVER-1200/AES-2006 cutaway wallchart published by Nuclear Engineering International and Modern Power Systems
Leningrad II-1, the VVER-1200 reference plant for El Dabaa

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