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Cairo and Moscow Ink Deal for Four-Unit Dabaa Plant

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• Russia's Rosatom and Egypt on Nov. 19 signed an intergovernmental agreement for building a four-reactor nuclear plant in Dabaa near the Mediterranean coast, laying to rest any doubts that the deal was in jeopardy after a plane with over 200 Russian tourists on board went down last month over Egyptian territory, killing everyone on board and forcing Moscow to ban all flights to the African country. The project, which will require some 12 years to complete, calls for building four VVER-1200 reactors, developing nuclear infrastructure, training Egyptian personnel, and cooperating with Egypt's nuclear regulator (NIW Aug.14'15). Previous reports indicated that Egyptian firms would have rights to some 20% of the subcontracting work on the first unit and up to 35% on subsequent reactors, and that a large part of the plant's output would be used for a water desalinization plant. The deal is believed to be worth $20 billion-$22 billion, with Russia providing 80%-90% of the financing, according to a source familiar with the deal. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was quoted as telling local television that his country would have 35 years to pay off the loan. Site survey work could begin as early as December, Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko reportedly said. • Iran appears to be removing centrifuges at Natanz faster than expected. In the month since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was formally adopted, roughly a quarter of the 15,420 IR-1 centrifuges at Natanz have been removed, leaving 11,308 IR-1s as of Nov. 15; 160 IR-2s were also taken out leaving 1,008 of the more advanced model in place, according to the IAEA's latest report on implementation of Iran's safeguards agreement with the agency. "Iran has been removing an average of about 147 IR-1 centrifuges per day," according to an analysis by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. "At this rate, Iran would need another one and a half months to finish dismantling the required number of IR-1 centrifuges at the FEP [Natanz fuel enrichment plant] under the JCPOA. It appears to be dismantling these centrifuges faster than expected." At Fordow, 258 IR-1 centrifuges and related infrastructure have been removed, though they remain in the cascade hall. That left 2,452 IR-1 centrifuges at the underground facility as of Nov. 15. To meet the terms of the JCPOA, Iran can leave only 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges in place at Natanz for further enrichment, and 1,044 IR-1s at Fordow, though they would not be allowed to accept UF6 feed for 15 years. • Overriding warnings by members of Parliament in Canberra, Australia this week signed an "administrative arrangement" with India that paves the way for a nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries to take effect, and with that the start of uranium exports to a country notoriously short on the strategic metal. A report by the Australian Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) in September said that uranium exports should be conditional on a number of steps, including the legislative establishment of an independent nuclear regulator; full separation of India's civil and military nuclear facilities; and verification by the IAEA of the "frequency, quality and comprehensiveness" of site inspections (NIW Sep.11'15). Without insisting on these steps, Kelvin Thompson, JSCOT's deputy chairman and opposition Labor party member, warned that Australia would put at "peril" its "reputation as a responsible global citizen." However, the Australian government said earlier this month that it "does not accept the Committee's recommendation that exports of uranium to India should be deferred."

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