x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Egypt's nuclear ambition reignites

Four years ago, Egypt announced it was to restart its nuclear power programme 20 years after cancelling it following the disaster at Chernobyl in Russia.

Four years ago, Egypt announced it was to restart its nuclear power programme - 20 years after cancelling it following the disaster at Chernobyl in Russia.

The country's first nuclear plant, which is designed to produce 1,000 megawatts (mw) of power, will be located on the Mediterranean coast at El Dabaa. It is expected to be operational by 2019. If all goes to plan, seven other nuclear reactors will come on line by 2028.

It will have been a long wait. The idea of a nuclear Egypt was first proposed by then president Gamal Nasser, who set up the Egyptian Atomic Energy Commission in 1955; even Richard Nixonoffered to help the country build eight nuclear reactors during the last months of his tenure in the early 1970s. It's only now that Nasser's dream seems on course to reach fruition and the reason for that is simple: a new urgency propelled by the country coming to terms with dwindling hydrocarbon supply that is expecxted to run out some time in the next 50 years. As Hassan Abdel Salam, the vice president at Elsewedy Electric, puts it: "Nuclear power stations are a must."

Nuclear power is expected to play a role in more than just electrical generation. As well as a lack of energy, Egypt is facing a serious, long-term and growing water shortage. With a fixed supply from the Nile and per capita usage declining at a rapid rate, the country has no choice but to turn to desalination. Already, most of the water being used by tourists along Egypt's Red Sea coast is desalinated and, with the government having banned the transfer of any more water from the Nile Basin, desalination is expected to provide the country with 10 per cent of its water needs by 2050 - with nuclear electricity expected to play a significant role in powering these new plants.

 

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