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IAEA Director General, Egypt's President Discuss Nuclear Power on Sidelines of World Youth Forum

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IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi with President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. (Photo: Egyptian President’s Office)

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi expressed the IAEA’s continued support for Egypt’s efforts to introduce nuclear power, during a meeting today with President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Sharm El-Sheik. At the World Youth Forum, where he was a panellist, he spoke about the role of nuclear power in meeting development objectives and fighting climate change at the same time.

At the meeting between Mr. Grossi and President el-Sisi, the two discussed Egypt’s plans to build a nuclear power plant at the El-Dabaa site on the Mediterranean coast to meet increased electricity demand. The selection of the site has been approved by the country’s nuclear regulator, the Egyptian Nuclear Regulation and Radiological Authority (ENRRA), a milestone in the licensing process.

Mr Grossi told President el-Sisi that the IAEA would continue to support Egypt’s efforts to establish the country’s first nuclear power plant.

“The nuclear power programme will bring a new dimension to the relation between the IAEA and Egypt,” he said.

Support so far has included a Site and External Events Design (SEED) review mission on safety standards, requested by the ENRRA and carried out by IAEA experts, to the El-Daaba site in February 2019. At the invitation of the Egyptian government, the IAEA also carried out an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission in November 2019 to assist the country in the development of the infrastructure required for the safe, secure and sustainable use of nuclear power.

The highest standards of safety and security will be observed during the construction and operation of the El-Dabaa power plant, President el-Sisi said. He added that Egypt is willing to share its nuclear-related facilities and expertise in the various peaceful applications of nuclear energy with experts from across Africa and the Middle East. He also acknowledged the important role of the IAEA in nuclear verification.

World Youth Forum

As a panellist at the World Youth Forum, Mr Grossi focused in particular on the support the IAEA provides to countries that choose to introduce nuclear power, adding that nuclear science and technology have an important role to play in helping the world to address the climate emergency. He highlighted the work of the IAEA in this area and others such as peace and security, the protection of the environment, sustainable development and food security.

“Nuclear power offers a steady, reliable supply of electricity,” Mr Grossi said, adding that nuclear power plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions during their operation. “It can be the key that unlocks the potential of renewables by providing flexible support—day or night, rain or shine.”

In order to meet the 2050 climate change goals, Mr Grossi said that the majority of the world’s electricity will need to be low-carbon.  Thirty countries currently use nuclear power today and around 30 more are considering nuclear power as part of their energy mix. Mediterranean countries besides Egypt considering the construction of their first nuclear power plants include Tunisia and Turkey.

Mr Grossi said that nuclear power, which provides around 10% of the world’s electricity, is already reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about two gigatons per year. “That is the equivalent of taking more than 400 million cars off the road – every year. If any major users were to stop using nuclear power overnight, this would have very serious consequences for CO2 emissions.”

He also spoke about the role of nuclear power in adapting to the effects of climate change – including water shortage in much of North Africa.

“Ensuring adequate supplies of water is a growing challenge for many countries,” he said “A major IAEA project in the Sahel region of Africa has helped 13 countries to find, assess and map sources of groundwater, using nuclear techniques such as isotope hydrology. This is part of our efforts to contribute to lasting socioeconomic development.”

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