The government of Egypt plans to invite bids for a nuclear power plant this year, the Cairo daily Al Ahram reported on 12 September.
The newspaper reported that its first nuclear power plant will be sited in the Mediterranean town of Dabaa, 240 kilometres west of Alexandria.
The first brick of Egypt’s Dabaa nuclear power plant was laid under former president Hosni Mubarak. Work on the project was stopped due to disputes with local residents, who accused the state of confiscating their land by force and without proper compensation. In January 2012, Dabaa locals stormed the construction site, destroying existing infrastructure and refusing to surrender to military police.
In late 2013, tribal families from Dabaa and Marsa Matrouh relinquished the nuclear construction site to the Egyptian armed forces after months of occupying the area. Egypt’s military engineering organisation is due to complete the plant’s infrastructure rehabilitation this month.
The Egyptian government’s decision to press ahead quickly with nuclear power follows disastrous power cuts in Cairo earlier on 3 September. It caused major disruption across the capital during the morning rush hour. Services were suspended on one of the city’s three metro lines and disrupted on a second. The power disruption left parts of the capital without running water, and hit telecommunications, knocking out 2,000 mobile phone signal boosters. The authorities imposed rolling power cuts neighbourhood by neighbourhood to deal with the electricity shortages.
In a televised address on 5 September, Egypt’s President El-Sisi said that the power cuts were “the most significant incident over the last three decades”.
He said Egypt needs to invest at least $12bn in the electricity sector over the next five years.
News of a tender for the project calls into question the future of an agreement with Russia to build a nuclear power plant. Nuclear experts also say that Egypt will need to develop an internationally-recognised regulatory code to address fears of nuclear proliferation. This will cover fuel enrichment, an issue that is at the centre of concerns about Iran’s nuclear plans.
Experts say that the Egyptian government is likely to seek assistance from the UAE where the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant is due to start operating in 2017. Saudi Arabia, which has set up a specialist nuclear power agency, is also expected to be closely involved with the project.
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