Dr. Yousry Abushady, IAEA Unit Head responsible for safeguards implementation in the DPRK, and an IAEA inspector show broken IAEA safeguards seals salvaged from North Korea. (Vienna, Austria, 3 Jan 2003). - Flickr/IAEA Imagebank
CAIRO – 27 December 2017: Yousry Abu Shady is the student of the great Egyptian nuclear scientist Yahya al-Mashad, who was assassinated in mysterious circumstances.
A man from Shubra, Cairo, Abu shady was responsible for inspecting 500 nuclear reactors in more than 50 countries around the world; a job he diligently performed for 25 years. He was nicknamed “Man of the Black Box” by colleagues at the International Atomic Energy Agency since he first joined it in 1984. He left the Agency in 2009, after a major dispute with Mohamed el-Baradei due to the reports he wrote against Egypt and Syria.
This is an exclusive interview with Yahya Abu-Shady, who was on a short visit to Egypt as Egypt signed the final Dabaa Power Plants contracts with Russia.
Abu-Shady talks about what happened “behind the scenes” as the final contract was signed and the most important articles in the four main contracts. He also shows us exclusive photos of the Egyptian nuclear plant's design, and reveals the central role played by Mohamed el-Baradei, former director general of IAEA, against Egypt, specifically against building nuclear power plants, for decades.
You were an Egyptian pioneer in planning for the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant by virtue of your all-important specialty. Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi and his Russian counterpart lately signed the final Dabaa Nuclear Power plant contract. Now, what is next?
Yes, I was involved in pre-planning the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plants, when they were nothing but an “idea”. Before it became a plan that was later concluded by signing the final contract, we signed preliminary contracts in February 2015, and these included the key details, like Rosatom undertaking to build four Russian nuclear power plants in Dabaa. These nuclear power plants are a state-of-the-art plants, called WWER-1200. What the Egyptian and Russian presidents signed recently were the final contracts, based on the ones signed more than two years ago.
What are the most important articles in the final contract between Egypt and Russia?
The final contracts include many articles. The most important articles are about the final design, structure of the plant, construction, nuclear power generation, as well as dealing with spent nuclear fuel, operation and maintenance. I believe we can say building the four plants has actually started, and I expect the first nuclear plant to be built and be ready for operation by 2025-2026. The other three plants will be built together, leaving a time gap of six months to a year between each.
As someone who witnessed the initial stages before approving the construction of the plants, and until signing the final contracts, could you tell us if modifications were made? Were there any differences in opinion between Egypt and Russia prior to signing the final contract?
In spite of the nature of my work, which compels me to work abroad, specifically in Vienna, I have met many Egyptian officials frequently during my visits to Egypt or during international conferences Egypt participates in. I know there were limited differences in opinion regarding some minor issues. They were never in the form of “disputes”, but rather in the form of “discussions” aiming at reaching the best solutions for both parties.
Drafting the contracts took a very long time, as they are very complicated contracts with many details. Moreover, the Russian plane crash incident interrupted work between Egypt and Russia for some more time.
If dispute arises between Egypt and Russia as the contract is put into action, what competent authority will arbitrate?
Egyptian law experts have worked diligently on the legal aspect of the contracts. We hope dispute never arises, but I believe that if it does, these legal articles have been drafted in Egypt’s favor, as the project will be carried out in Egypt.
What about international arbitration?
I do not know the exact details, but it is possible.
Can the IAEA arbitrate in case of disputes arising between the two countries?
The IAEA is not competent to arbitrate, and it can never be.
Have you reviewed the final contracts?
I have only reviewed the preliminary contract, which was published in the Egyptian Gazette in May 2015, and I know all its details. As for the other four contracts, I have not reviewed them in person, but I know their content.
Can you give us exclusive details about the four contracts?
The first contract is for building four WWER-1200 nuclear reactors. It includes final designs, safety details, articles pertaining to training Egyptian personnel and economic articles. Essentially, the economic articles state that Russia will provide a $25 billion loan for building the plants, and will not be paid any installments except after four years of building the four plants. This grants Egypt a great grace period, because a single nuclear power plant can generate electricity costing approximately $1.5 million. If we multiply that by four (the number of plants), we will discover that Egypt will have saved $5-6 billion a year. If we multiply that number by five years, we will find out that we have the full price of the nuclear plants. Egypt, however, will pay out the price through a payment plan that will last for more than 30 years. As for the second contract, it is for supplying nuclear fuel to the four plants for their service life, which could be 60-80 years. Egypt can find other suppliers, and this is very important for the Egyptian side.
The third contract is about how spent fuel is handled, and the fourth is the operation and maintenance for 10 years contract, spanning 10 years of operating the first plant. Afterwards, Egyptians will take over operation, and maintenance will be done every four years.
Have you contacted the government to give your opinion as an expert regarding handling spent nuclear fuel?
Yes, this is a very critical aspect. I have sent President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi a letter with many proposals regarding the Dabaa project in 2014. The most important proposals pertained to the issue of nuclear fuel. I suggested leasing it, as this would solve 90 percent of the nuclear waste problem. The other 10 percent would pose low or medium level risks, that is, they emit low or medium level radiation. They can be easily handled by being placed in a certain type of barrels, where they are compressed and stored in specific places, where they are absolutely no cause for concern. I believe this proposal was taken into consideration by competent authorities; also, Russia promised to build storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel. Egypt will be supplied with containers where this fuel will be stored and sent back to Russia. Spent fuel will not remain in Egypt, but will go back to Russia, which will do Egypt a favor in case any rumors spread about Egypt manufacturing nuclear bombs. Plutonium will not be in Egypt in the first place. Russia did this with Iran and other eastern countries when they were experimenting with building nuclear power plants.
Some western countries are not in favor of Egypt building nuclear power plants, and are trying to sabotage the project under the pretext of Egypt having the capacity to manufacture a nuclear bomb. What do you think about that?
This is absolutely true. Different parties are working hard against Egypt to sabotage its peaceful nuclear project. Of course, the USA and Israel are among those trying to do that. It is very important to clarify something about the so-called “nuclear bomb” issue, which will shed light on America’s policy of lies and hypocrisy. In 1994, America was deeply concerned about North Korea’s Gas-Graphite Reactors, which produce very high quality plutonium. It demanded suspending the operation of these reactors in exchange for providing North Korea with petroleum as fuel to operate traditional power plants (50,000 tons per month). America will, however, build two light-water reactors (LWRs) for peaceful purposes, and these two will have the same functioning mechanisms of the Egyptian Dabaa plants. America itself stated that these are the safest plants for power generation and that this type of plants does not produce high quality plutonium and is less likely to be used for manufacturing nuclear weapons when compared to other reactors. These are America’s words! America is the one that considered North Korean reactors its arch-enemy! How can America attack Egypt now for building these plants and try to sabotage the project?
Have you noticed that Baradei, former director general of the IAEA, who has been known to attack Egypt through his famous tweets, has not said anything about signing the final Dabaa plants contract?
Absolutely, it is hardly surprising for someone who has always been working against Egypt. He was my colleague for 25 years as we worked at the IAEA. I can never forget that Baradei used to regularly meet a CIA agent when he was the director general. They say he was recruited by the CIA in the seventies, and that he was hired as director general in 1997 to implement America’s agenda against all countries that it considers “enemies”. Because of him, Egypt was blacklisted, along with the “axis of evil”, that is, Syria, Iran and North Korea, which seek to manufacture nuclear bombs. Baradei was the strongest opponent of Egypt building a nuclear power plant. He falsely claimed that Egypt does not want to build them to generate electricity, but for other strategic purposes. However, Egyptians knew the truth about him and loathed him. Even the terrorist MB loathed him, although he tried to gain their approval sometimes. I have to emphasize that Baradei’s treason is serious, and I cannot say everything I know.