عربــى

EGX 30 9,455.30 -1.45%



What can Egypt learn and gain from Russia’s history in nuclear power?

What can Egypt learn and gain from Russia’s history in nuclear power?

ArabFinance: Russia’s nuclear industry is celebrating its 72nd anniversary on September 28 this year. Today, with 34 reactors under construction in 12 countries from Finland to China, Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear power corporation, is currently the world’s No.1 for nuclear power plants construction abroad, having held this title for several years in a row now, and a major player in the Middle East, where it has confirmed or prospective projects in Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan, among others.

In this sense, taking a look back at the history of the Russian nuclear industry can serve as a lesson in tackling challenges and managing change in order to stay ahead. In contrast to today’s state-of-the-art facilities that have become so closely associated with nuclear power as a hi-tech industry, the working conditions back in the day were of the most basic kind, with the scientists having to rely on little but very rudimentary equipment and their own creativity to invent and establish processes that would go on to become industry standard.

Ultimately, creativity and effort won out, and in 1954 Russia launched the world’s first commercial nuclear power plant in the town of Obninsk, 100 km southwest of Moscow. Although the plant’s power output amounted to only 5 MWe, a fraction of modern units’ capacity, which can exceed 1,200 MWe, what’s most stunning perhaps is that this historic milestone was accomplished less than five years after the Russian government issued a decree on developing a peaceful nuclear power programme.

From the start, innovation was part and parcel of Russian nuclear scientists and engineers’ endeavours. A series of firsts followed: the world’s first nuclear icebreaker; fast-neutron reactor (which can function on recycled nuclear fuel, resulting in increased efficiency and reduced waste) – these are just a few of the breakthroughs that expanded the horizons of the global peaceful nuclear industry. In 1964, the USSR launched the first VVER-type (pressurized water) reactor that would over the years become one of the most widely used and reliable reactor technologies around the world, as dozens of reactors of this type still in use today all over the world prove.

Among Rosatom’s most recent innovations is pioneering the Generation 3+ nuclear reactor technology – the latest in reactor design – by launching into commercial operation the world’s first unit of the kind in Russia earlier in 2017. The same type of reactor, VVER-1200, will be installed at the El Dabaa NPP, making Egypt a host to the most advanced and safest nuclear reactor technology. This tradition of innovation is very much alive today at Rosatom, the company’s view being that future is the only way to go and that peaceful nuclear technology is an integral part of a sustainable future. Today, Russia holds leading positions in areas of nuclear applications from power generation to nuclear medicine and agricultural irradiation, as well as nuclear research and education, with a wide system of educational and training facilities meant that Russia can not only train its own nuclear cadre but specialists from other countries, including Egypt.

Dr Yousri Abu Shadi, UN Energy expert and former head of Nuclear Engineering Department at Alexandria University, stresses the importance of the historical ties between Egypt and Russia in shaping Egypt’s nuclear future. ‘The vital role of Russia in supporting Egypt in many crises and political dilemmas was very important in building a positive image of Russia among Egyptians. Contracting with Rosatom was a result of Russian excellence in nuclear technologies, in addition to Russia’s historically standing by Egypt in many ways. Egypt has selected VVER-1200 reactors that belong to the 3+ generation, and are regarded to be the safest reactors in the world now.’

The Middle East remains a key market for Rosatom, where it has a history of technical, scientific and cultural cooperation with many of the region’s countries. Its accumulated expertise and more than 70-year experience in all aspects of peaceful nuclear applications mean it is well-equipped to help the region’s countries, including Egypt, start writing their own nuclear histories. To say that the global energy landscape is changing would be stating the obvious – as many countries are moving towards a low-carbon economy, the world’s energy mix is undergoing its most dramatic transformation in decades. As a zero-emission source of power, nuclear is set to play a major part in the sustainable energy mix of the future, not least in Egypt, where the country’s 60-year-long nuclear dream is about to be brought to life by Russia’s State Atomic Corporation Rosatom, which is implementing the project of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant at El Dabaa.

Dr Abdel Atty Salman, former head of Nuclear Materials Authority of Egypt, notes ‘Rosatom is considered one of the most advanced companies in the field of establishing and operating nuclear power plants worldwide. Egypt and Russia have a long heritage and history of technical and educational cooperation for decades, including Russia's vital contribution in the establishment of the Aswan High Dam, and the support it shows in many other fields. It is very important for Egypt to benefit from knowledge and technology transfer through bilateral cooperation with Russia in these giant projects including El Dabaa. Says Dr Abdel Atty Salman, ‘The [El Dabaa NPP] project will significantly benefit both Egypt and Russia, as Rosatom’s success in establishing El Dabaa nuclear power plant will open the doors for the company to establish similar projects in many Arab and African countries.’

#Related keywords

All rights reserved to Arab Finance 2015 ©

Back to top