Core catcher installation starts before schedule at unit 2 of first nuclear plant in Egypt


Work has started ahead of schedule on the installation of the core catcher in unit 2 of the first nuclear power plant (NPP) in Egypt being built at El Dabaa, according to an announcement earlier this week by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.  

A Rosatom statement said the installation of the core catcher was originally scheduled for 2024 but has been undertaken earlier this month ahead of schedule.

Egypt and Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement in 2015 under which Rosatom will help build and part-finance the first Egyptian NPP to be owned by the Egypt’s Nuclear Power Plant Authority (NPPA). 

“It is worth mentioning that in October 2023, we installed a core catcher at power unit one which demonstrated the almost simultaneous construction of the (El Dabaa) first and second power units,” Rosatom’s First Deputy General Director for Nuclear Energy, Andrey Petrov, said in a statement. 

The core catcher, weighing 700 tonnes and designed to catch the molten core material of a reactor in case of a nuclear meltdown, is one of the main elements of the passive safety system of the Russian designed state-of-the-art generation III+ VVER-1200 reactors. 

The ceremony held to mark the beginning of the installation of the core catcher was attended, among others, by the Chairman of the Egyptian NPPA Amged El-Wakeel and the First Deputy Director General of Rosatom, Andrey Petrov. 

“What the El-Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant site is witnessing today is not the result of a coincidence, but a consequence of the tireless and persistent efforts of all project participants, who worked day and night to fulfill key production events. This would not have been possible without dedication, tenacity and tireless hard work,” El-Wakeel said. 

“Our project continues to develop at a rapid pace. By the end of this year, we plan to pour the ‘first concrete’ into the foundation slab of the fourth power unit, thus marking the end of the preparatory period and the transition to the main stage of construction of the four-unit El Dabaa NPP. All this is the result of the coordinated work of a single team of the customer and the general contractor,” Petrov said.  

In the first week of May this year, the first concrete was poured for the third power unit at El Dabaa. 

The El Dabaa NPP site, located on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast about 130 km northwest of the capital Cairo, will have four VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors of 1,200 MW capacity each, making Egypt the only country in the region to have the advanced Generation III+ reactor.   

The nuclear power plant will be the largest project of Russo-Egyptian cooperation since the Aswan Dam. Egypt has aspired to have its own nuclear energy industry for more than half-a-century.    

Although the Egyptian nuclear power program was started in 1954, and its first research reactor ETRR-1 was acquired from the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1958, it is only now that work has started on building the country’s first nuclear power plant.    

The El Dabaa NPP is being constructed under a package of contracts which came into force in December 2017. As per the contract, Rosatom will not only construct the NPP but will also supply nuclear fuel for its whole life cycle, as well as assist Egyptian partners in the training of personnel and in support of operations and service during the first 10 years of its operation. Under a separate agreement, Rosatom will build a special storage and will supply containers for storing spent nuclear fuel.