Egypt’s House of Representatives approved three laws on Monday which allow for the creation of two regulatory bodies on nuclear power, paving the way for the construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant to generate electricity at El-Dabaa.
The approval came after a five-hour marathon of debate in an urgent plenary meeting.
At the start of the meeting, parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal indicated that the vote on the three laws was necessary because the government deemed the matter is urgent and asked that it put to a vote as soon as possible.
“This is allowed by the constitution and the House’s internal bylaws,” said Abdel-Aal.
A recent report issued by parliament’s Energy and Environment Committee said the three laws will help revive Egypt’s programme for the use of nuclear power in peaceful purposes.
“This programme began in the mid-1980s but it came to a halt after the tragic explosion of the Chernobyl reactor in the Ukraine in 1986,” said the report.
“But now the construction of nuclear power stations have become an urgent matter and all necessary safeguards have become available, ensuring that these stations will be built in a safe and secure way,” said the report.
The MPs first approved a government-drafted law on the creation of “Executive Authority for the Supervision of Nuclear Stations for Electricity Generation.”
“The authority, which will be affiliated with the Ministry of Electricity, and will be located in Cairo with possible branches inside or outside Egypt, will be responsible for the technical supervision of nuclear stations designed to generate electricity,” the draft law said.
The authority’s duties “will include supervising the performance of contractors employed to build nuclear stations in Egypt, issuing progress reports on nuclear projects, and releasing annual reports on the authority’s finances to be revised by the minister of electricity and parliament’s energy and environment committee.
“The Executive Authority will also take charge of the experimental operation of nuclear projects and make sure that they are implemented on time and in coordination with other authorities involved in building nuclear power stations in Egypt.”
Following this, the MPs approved amendments to a 1976 law (Law No. 13/1976) which had allowed for the creation of a nuclear power authority before the program was later shelved. The amendments had been approved by parliament’s energy and environment committee in a meeting on Saturday.
A committee’s report explained that the new authority will function under the auspices of the Ministry of Electricity and will be mainly tasked with proposing the construction of nuclear power stations for the purpose of electricity generation in Egypt, as well as establishing desalination projects.
“This authority will also take charge of conducting studies and research on nuclear stations in Egypt, and drafting the specifications of these stations,” said the report.
The report explained: “The amendments will also pave the way for the authority to sign contracts with the private sector in Egypt and outside of Egypt in the field of building nuclear power stations,” so long as such agreements do not harm national security.
According to the amendments, the board of the authority will consist of 10 members to be named by the minister of electricity and ratified by the president.
The amendments also state that “all equipment, tools, vehicles, spare parts and materials to be imported by the authority will be exempted from any customs duties, and all companies and institutions contracted by the authority will be also granted the same exemptions.”
A tax exemption will also apply to loans borrowed by the authority from foreign sources for the purpose of building nuclear power projects in Egypt, as well as to contractors and sub-contractors hired by the authority.
A third law, which is an amendment of a 2010 law (Law No. 7/2010), concerns the regulation of nuclear and radiation-related activities in Egypt.
This six-article law was first approved by the cabinet in a meeting on 20 September before approval by parliament’s energy and environment committee on Saturday.
The law changes the name of a regulatory body originally created in 2012 to supervise nuclear and radiation-related activities in Egypt. This new law now dubs the body “the Authority of Control on Nuclear and Radiation Activities” and grants it more flexibility to oversee nuclear and radiation-related activities, ensuring adherence to the latest technological methods.
“This is especially necessary before Egypt begins building the country’s first nuclear power station at El-Dabaa,” said the report.
In November 2015, President Egypt signed a deal with Russia to build the plant at El-Dabaa, 130 kilometers northwest of Cairo in the Matrouh Governorate.
The construction of the facility is awaiting final agreement between Moscow and Cairo on details.
The laws passed by parliament today have to be ratified by the president.