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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

 State Information Service(SIS)
Ministry of Information (MOI)
  Arab Republic of Egypt

Letter from Cairo

February 6-9, 1998

Egypt Opens Second Nuclear Reactor

    After an interruption that lasted for three decades, Egypt is moving ahead again with a new programme for the peaceful applications of nuclear energy.

    Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly, nuclear energy officials said the launching of a new reactor "heralded the activation of Egypt's long-delayed programme for using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

    The new reactor, which was inaugurated on Wednesday February 4 by President Hosni Mubarak and Argentinean President Carlos Menem, is the culmination of a series of agreements signed by the two countries in 1985 to expand cooperation in the field of the peaceful application of nuclear energy.

    On the basis of these agreements, a contract was signed in September 1992 to build a 22 megawatt reactor. Work began a few months later with an Egyptian work force and more than 70 experts who had received training in different fields of nuclear energy in Argentina.

    According to project supervisor Ibrahim El-Dakhli, deputy chairman of the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority, the reactor will be used to produce radioactive isotopes and cobalt used in medical treatment - particularly the treatment of cancer.

    Argentina was chosen because of its extensive experience in using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, El-Dakhli said. Work on the reactor was completed four months ahead of schedule, he added.

    Egypt acquired its first nuclear reactor from the Soviet Union in 1961. The two megawatt reactor was opened by President Gamal Abdel-Nasser at Inchass, in the Nile Delta. But an Egyptian nuclear ambition had to be discarded following the 1967 defeat at the hands of Israel.

    As a result, Egypt lost many of its nuclear experts who had to travel abroad to seek work opportunities. Some emigrated to Canada and others joined the Iraqi nuclear programme.

    Before his assassination in 1981 President Anwar Sadat announced plans to build two nuclear power stations along the Mediterranean coast. These plans, though, were subsequently shelved.

    Nuclear experts interviewed by the Weekly expressed the hope that the reactivation of the Egyptian nuclear programme would gradually bridge the technological gap between Egypt and some of the advanced countries in the region. But they stressed that Egypt was developing its nuclear potential strictly for peaceful applications.

    "Egypt has always abided by the safety regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and this new reactor has been visited by IAEA inspectors and classified as adhering to the Agency's system," said Fawzi Hammad, former head of the Atomic Energy Authority. He described the reactor as a "much needed achievement in nuclear technology."

    A nuclear official affirmed that the reactor is equipped with an advanced safety system that makes any radioactive leakage almost impossible.

    Meanwhile, officials rejected claims by the Israeli press that the reactor would be used for military purposes.

    "The source of the nuclear threat in this region is coming from one place and that is Israel and it should be stopped," Abdel-Gawad Emara, a nuclear expert, told the Weekly.

    The officials pointed out that, unlike Israel, Egypt is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Moreover, Egypt's nuclear facilities - Inchass and any new reactors - will remain open to IAEA inspection, while Israel's nuclear programme has always been shrouded in secrecy, the officials said.

Courtesy: Al-Ahram Weekly

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