How long is its worth waiting on your country to build its first nuclear power plant? If you are Egyptian, the answer is 45 years. That is if everything goes according to plan. According to The National, the Egyptian energy authorities have announced that by the end of year they will issue an international tender for the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Al-Dabaa region to be completed in 2019.
The final decision on the location was reportedly taken by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Al-Dabaa region along the Mediterranean coast is known for its beaches, and the local tourism industry was concerned how tourists would feel about sharing the beaches with a nuclear power plant.
A long and winding road
If the new plant is completed on time then it will have taken Egypt 45 years to capitalise on an offer made in 1974 by then U.S. President Richard Nixon, who offered to help build eight nuclear power plants to sway the most populous Arab nation to abandon the Soviet Union and join the West during the Cold War.
The idea of nuclear power was however not an imported idea since Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had already established the Egyptian Atomic Energy Commission in 1955.
But the shell shock that Egypt suffered following the defeat by Israel in the 1967 war and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 put the plans on hold until now when the need to provide electricity to an ever growing population has forced the government’s hand.
A strive to diversify
The discovery of natural gas in the 1990s, which provides 80 to 90% of today’s energy needs, also delayed the nuclear decision.
However, the Egyptian government does not plan to rely solely on nuclear power as it has set a 2020 deadline for diversifying its energy production so that 20% comes from renewable sources.
“I personally consider burning oil in the 21st century a crime. We are now mature enough to maximise our energy mix,” Ibrahim al Oseiry, a former IAEA official and an energy and nuclear affairs consultant in Egypt’s ministry of energy and electricity told The National.
“Before, for example, we used wood to get energy. Now no one is using wood. Then they started to use coal and then they started to use oil. Now, in the 21st century, it is a crime to burn oil when we have other energy resources.”
More on Egypt on the Green Prophet