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EGYPT: Government looks to nuclear energy to face increasing power needs

August 11, 2010 |  9:44 am
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In an attempt to meet the country's increasing energy consumption rates, Egypt's Ministry of Electricity and Energy announced that it will open bids for its first nuclear power plant this year.

"Egypt's nuclear program is progressing steadily and we expect to start the tender before the end of the year," Minister of Electricity and Energy, Hassan Younes, told state-owned newspaper Al Ahram.

The minister added that Dabaa, on the Egyptian northern coast, has been recommended as a site for the nuclear reactor by an international consulting firm, which relied on studies reviewed by the National Centre for Nuclear Safety and Control. NCNSC will issue its final and official approval in two months.

The decision to develop Egypt's power and energy capabilities comes as the country is suffering from another hot summer that has the government struggling to meet increased electrical demand. Large parts of Egypt's cities and towns – including Cairo – still have to bear constant and sometimes daily power outages during June, July and August.

The government responded by dimming street lights on main roads by 50%, as well tripling electricity prices during peak hours and imposing laws forcing citizens to reduce their daily consumption. Similar to gas and oil, electricity is partially subsidized by the Egyptian government.

In addition to generating nuclear power, the Egyptian government aims to build wind farms to increase energy production. Wind energy is expected to account for 12% of the power produced by 2010.

Egypt previously counted on hydroelectricity generated from the High Dam, which provided 60% of the country's power. However, Younis believes that generating hydro power will gradually vanish due to dwindling water resources. Today, only 8% of Egypt's power is currently generated by hydroelectricity.

After abandoning its nuclear ambitions following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, USSR in 1986, the Egyptian nuclear power project was revived in 2007 by President Hosni Mubarak. Officials are hoping that the new project, which includes building four nuclear power plants, will add a capacity of up to 4,000 megawatts by 2025.

--Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Electrical power generators in Egypt. Credit: Associated Press

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