CAIRO - Construction of a nuclear plant by Russia's state-owned energy corporation Rosatom on Egypt's north coast has begun, according to a joint statement from the company and Egyptian authorities.

The plant at El-Dabaa is Egypt's first and is planned to have four units, each with a generating capacity of 1,200MW, according to the statement posted by the Egyptian nuclear authority late on Wednesday.

Egyptian Energy Minister Mohamed Shaker was quoted as saying the pouring of concrete for the first unit marked an "historic event" for Egypt, made possible by Egyptian-Russian cooperation.

Egypt has been considering a nuclear plant at El-Dabaa on and off since the 1980s. Contracts for the plant came into effect in 2017, but the start of construction was delayed for several years.

Rosatom received approval from the Egyptian regulator to start construction on the first unit last month.

The statement gave no details on the cost or time frame for construction. In 2016, Egypt said most of the construction cost would be covered by a $25 billion Russian loan.

The plant will use pressurized water reactors similar to those at Novovoronezh and Leningrad nuclear power plants in Russia, and at a Belarusian plant that was connected to the grid in November 2020, the joint statement said.

Egypt rapidly expanded its power generation capacity over the past decade, notably with large gas-fired plants built by Siemens, and now has a power surplus, with plans to begin or expand electricity exports to several Middle Eastern countries.

It is also seeking to raise the share of its power generation capacity from renewable sources to 40% by 2030 and 42% by 2035.

(Reporting by Aidan Lewis Editing by Mark Heinrich)