First tier of inner containment structure installed at unit 1 of Egypt’s first nuclear plant

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The construction of first tier of the inner containment structure of unit 1 has been completed at the first nuclear power plant (NPP) in Egypt being built at El Dabaa, according to an announcement by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.  

A Rosatom statement last week said that the installation into the design position of the first tier of the inner containment structure marks the achievement of one of this year’s key milestones at the first power unit. 

“The first tier of the inner containment has been installed into the design position in the reactor building at the first power unit of the El-Dabaa NPP,” the statement said.  

The inner containment is a cylindrical reinforced concrete structure, which will house the nuclear reactor and the primary circuit equipment. Together with the outer containment structure, it is a key element of the designed safety measures. The first tier of the inner containment consists of 12 segments, each weighing between 60 to 80 tons. 

The Chairman of the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plants Authority (NPPA) Amged El-Wakeel and the First Deputy Director General of Rosatom, Andrey Petrov, were among those who visited the site on May 16, 2024, to mark the moment and to discuss progress on the project, the statement added.  

“Right now, the work is underway at the site at more than 130 facilities. More than 20,000 people are working at the El-Dabaa nuclear power plant construction site,” Petrov said.  

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 NPPA.  

“We regularly come to the construction site of the El-Dabaa nuclear power plant to check the progress of work. Many other key events are planned for the current year, which started with the pouring of first concrete for unit 4 in January (2024),” El-Wakeel said. 

All four power units of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant are under construction. In the first week of May 2023, the first concrete was poured for the third unit. Molten core catchers, one of the main elements of the NPP’s passive safety system, were installed in units 1 and 2 in October and November last year, respectively.   

The El Dabaa NPP will be Egypt’s first, and the first in Africa since the Koeberg nuclear plant in South Africa was built nearly 40 years ago. 

The El Dabaa NPP site, located on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast about 130 km northwest of the capital Cairo, will have four Russian-designed 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.     

El Dabaa 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.