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Ministry plans to put nuclear plant construction to tender

The construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant would be put to international tender next January, the Ministry of Electricity and Energy announced on Thursday.

The plant would be built in the North Coast’s Dabaa area, and would function on a pressurized light-water reactor, with an operating capacity of 950 to 1,650 MW, the ministry spokesperson said. The ministry hopes to have the plant operational by 2019, and it would be in use until 2025.

Since the ministry announced its intention to go nuclear two years ago, protests against the plant have been ongoing, with environmentalists and Dabaa residents among the most vehement opponents.

When former President Mohamed Morsi visited Matrouh governorate in 2012, several Dabaa residents protested there in an effort to pressure him into cancelling the plans. However, Morsi then said in a press conference that the government would continue with its plans to build the plant, and that all affected citizens would be compensated for the use of their lands.

At the time, Morsi claimed that fears of radiation leakage were not justified, and assured that the government would only proceed with the project if experts and scientists confirmed it was safe and beneficial for the country.

Environmental activist Ahmed al-Droubi told Mada Masr that this is not the first time the government has decided to keep pushing for nuclear energy despite local opposition, a position he sees as outdated and harmful both to the country’s economy and environment. The fact that Germany decided to abandon nuclear power by 2022 is proof of that, Droubi argued.

“Egypt is rich in renewable energy resources like solar and wind energy, I can’t understand the government’s insistence on buying outdated technology that will have a huge effect on the environment. Renewable energy will provide more job opportunities and allows for more development and research, and after counting the initial cost, is much cheaper,” he said.

According to studies, focusing on utilizing renewable energy would save up to US$2-3 billion annually, from now to 2020. 

However, Electricity Minister Aktham Abo al-Ela told the state owned newspaper Al-Ahram newspaper that the ministry is preparing a complete file on the project, including an execution timetable for the nuclear program that would be presented to the Cabinet and interim President Adly Mansour for discussion.

A consultant from the Australian WorleyParsons company, which is specialized in providing services to the resources and energy sectors and complex process industries, is currently in meetings with officials in the Nuclear Power Plants Authority to revise the bid requirements and the technical specifications of the nuclear power plant, according to Al-Ahram. 

The lack of strategy for the future, and the conflict within the Cabinet between the Environment Ministry — who believes that the Cabinet is delinquent on this issue — and the Nuclear Power Plants Authority — which insists on continuing with the nuclear energy plan — are creating mass confusion around the project, according to Droubi.

Droubi finds it concerning that Germany is now producing more energy than Egypt, although it has far less sun exposure.

“We’re calling on the government to take into consideration a sustainable energy plan that doesn’t include nuclear plants or importing coal. This is a commitment that will burden upcoming generations, who will have to spend millions annually to manage nuclear waste that we’ll leave for hundreds of years to come,” he warned.

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