Mubarak says Egypt to build nuclear power stations

Published 30 October 2007

President Mubarak of Egypt announces plans for civilian nuclear program; Egypt’s oil and gas reserves stand at 15.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, enough for 34 years at current production rates

We reported last month about the Frency-Lybian project to build a large nuclear power station in Lybia for the pourpose of supporting an ambitious water desalination scheme. Lybia’s neighbor Egypt will not left far behind. President Hosni Mubarak announced that Egypt will build several civilian nuclear power stations to meet the country’s growing energy needs, but provided no details about when the program would get under way. The president made the announcement a few days ahead of the annual congress of his ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and a year after his politician son and heir-designate, Gamal, floated the idea of a peaceful nuclear program. Mubarak also did not say how much the program would cost or how funding would be secured. “We have to face the fact that oil and gas in the end are non-renewable energy sources,” Mubarak said in a speech after inaugurating an electricity station north of Cairo. “And we also have to admit that we are facing a great challenge to meet increasing consumption.”

The United States expressed support of Egypt’s plans to develop peaceful nuclear energy a year ago after the idea was articulated by Gamal Mubarak and then taken up by the president. Gamal’s initial proposal had been greeted with scepticism by opposition groups, which dismissed his announcement as a media stunt designed to bolster his political credentials. Officials put Egypt’s oil and gas reserves at 15.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, enough for thirty-four years at current production rates. The elder Mubarak said rising oil prices would nudge the government’s energy subsidies higher to around 50 billion Egyptian pounds ($9 billion) in the current fiscal year starting in July, from 43.8 billion pounds in the previous year.

Cairo suspended a peaceful nuclear program after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) said the first 1,000-megawatt reactor could be built at Dabaa on the Mediterranean in eight to ten years if foreign investment is secured. Egypt ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1981 and has two research reactors. The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) probed “failures” in reporting nuclear research in 2004, but concluded that the experiments were not weapons-related.