Russia signs deal to build Egypt's first nuclear plant

Documents are signed for a deal to build Egypt's first nuclear power plant.
Documents are signed for a deal to build Egypt's first nuclear power plant.REUTERS

CAIRO (AFP) - Russia signed two agreements on Thursday to finance and build Egypt's first nuclear power plant, in a televised ceremony attended by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The signing comes three weeks after what is widely believed to have been an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) bomb downed a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 on board, and "carries a message on the weight of relations between us and Russia", Sisi said.

"For a long time, Egypt has dreamt of having a peaceful nuclear programme for the production of electricity," Sisi said of the project.

Under the second deal, Sisi said Russia will grant a 35-year loan to the North African country, the Arab world's most populous. He did not say how much the loan will amount to or what its terms are.

Sergei Kirienko, director-general of Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom, said the agreement is for the construction and operation of four 1,200MW reactors, making the country "a regional leader in terms of technology."

However, he said details of the credit agreement were still under discussion.

Sisi announced the project in February during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, when a memorandum of understanding was signed.

The plant is to be built in Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast in the north-west of the country.

Egypt laid the foundation for the facility during the regime of president Hosni Mubarak, ousted in January 2011, but work was halted due to disputes with local residents after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

On Thursday, speaking of the plane tragedy, Sisi said the "Egyptian people understand the concerns of the Russian people and their leaders regarding the security of their citizens."

Just a day earlier, ISIS said it had smuggled a bomb on board the aeroplane, which had taken off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for Saint Petersburg.

Moscow had announced on Wednesday that traces of explosives had been found in the wreckage and vowed to hunt down the perpetrators.

But Egypt has been reluctant to acknowledge that a bomb caused the crash and said no definite conclusions should be drawn until the probe into the tragedy is complete.

On Thursday, Sisi promised that the investigation was being handled in a "totally transparent manner".