El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant Is Good News for Egypt, and Nuclear Education and Training Is Key

This September, the El Dabaa Atomic Technical School opens its doors for its first students, who will upon graduation go on to work at Egypt’s first nuclear power plant at El Dabaa. This is however just one important step to developing Egypt’s own nuclear cadre that will service the country’s nuclear industry. In an opinion piece written shortly before his untimely death, Prof. Mahmoud Barakat of the Nuclear & Radiological Control Authority argues that education and training of qualified nuclear cadre is crucial to the fulfilment of Egypt’s nuclear dream.

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Since the nuclear energy appeared on the international arena in mid-last century, it occupies an increasingly important position in terms of human development at all levels including scientific, economic, social and military levels. Accordingly, many countries have moved to nuclear power by establishing of number of nuclear power plants to generate electricity as an alternative of fossil fuels. Since 1960s, Egypt tried to launch a limited program to establish nuclear power plant in Egypt, but it did not succeed. These attempts, which lasted for more than half a century until the recent agreement was signed between Russia and Egypt to establish a power plant in El Dabaa on the North Coast.

There is no doubt that this long-anticipated agreement was good news for millions of Egyptians. Everyone is waiting for the start of the establishment of the new plant. Here comes the role of specialists to equip the project with all means of success. In order to reach the desired success, Egypt has cooperated with the Russian company, Rosatom. We will focus on this report on education and training in the area of nuclear energy.

It is obvious that preparation and training of Egyptian cadre definitely varies according to employees’ classification in the nuclear power plant. Operators and their assistants in different places will be trained for a period not less than two years, including theoretical training and lectures focusing on handling simple or major accidents. They are also trained on simulator for a certain number of hours to be determined by trainers. The training of fresh graduates will last for two years. The first year will be a full-time study of nuclear physics, physics and reactors engineering, nuclear fuel chemistry and engineering management followed by various disciplines in the workplace during the second year.

We should start immediately on the establishment of a training center with a suitable size, including all initial and advanced training activities. The establishment of the training center will help ensure the continuous provision of trained workers at all levels with appropriate numbers and at a high level of professionalism. We should develop modern administrative systems without any complexities of routine.

The trainers should be selected very carefully according to a rigorous academic basis, provided that they possess personal and scientific capabilities, to ensure they will be able to provide the highest standards of training with the support of clear disciplines for each training level. It is also important that Rosatom experts to take part in the training process, to ensure the training is implemented in the most professional way.

We now understand the importance of training and qualified teams, who will be involved in the establishment and operation of nuclear power plants. Rosatom experts have a key role in the training process, by selecting ad designing disciplines, selecting applicant trainers, verification of training process, and finally supervising students’ assessment at the end of the program.

Rosatom should also attract Egyptian and Russian technical universities to contribute in designing the training disciplines for different levels, while providing qualified trainees. We have to remember that the operational lifetime of the nuclear power plant exceeds 60 years, and here again we emphasize the importance of training for all cadres, who work in different sectors and departments. This raises the issue of continuous training, particularly after the full operation of the power plant. The training is a continuous process and goes hand in hand with the production life of the nuclear plant itself.

The energy projects occupy a leading position for most countries as energy is a key driver for economic and social development. On the other hand, nuclear power plants have a huge importance in emerging countries as they are striving to build their capacities in all aspects of life. However, the insufficiency of qualified cadres, the lack of funding and the poor infrastructure can hinder the establishment of nuclear power plants and put the projects on hold. To overcome these challenges, the emerging markets start to seek cooperation and partnerships with technologically advanced countries through well-structured contracts, where all commitments, obligations and responsibilities are clearly defined. These agreements ensure the establishment of a sound infrastructure, including the preparation of qualified cadres.

The establishment and operation of the first nuclear power plant in Egypt, as well as affiliate training centers, are extremely important to ensure sustainability of power supply of the plant. This will maximize the economic and social benefits for Egypt, by increasing the number of industrial projects, expanding reclaimed lands, upgrading irrigation systems, and relying on advanced harvesting techniques to reduce waste.