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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Nuclear Weapons Program

Egypt has not engaged in significant efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Evidently, Egypt has decided to concentrate on increasing conventional forces, and chemical and biological weapons , rather than developing nuclear weapons.

The Egyptian nuclear program was launched in 1954. 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. The Soviets controlled the disposal of this small nuclear research reactor's spent fuel, which in any event was not capable of producing a significant amount of weapons-grade material. Egyptian nuclear ambitions were discarded following the 1967 defeat at the hands of Israel. Egypt signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968 but delayed ratifying it, presumably because the government had evidence that Israel had embarked on a nuclear weapons program. Subsequently, 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 program.

At the same time, however, serious work on developing nuclear potential designated for use in power engineering, agriculture, medicine, biotechnology, and genetics continues. Industrial incorporation of four explored uranium deposits is planned, including the extraction and enrichment of uranium for subsequent use as fuel for atomic power plants.

In 1975, the United States agreed in principle on a program to supply Egypt with power reactors. The US promised to provide Egypt with eight nuclear power plants and the necessary cooperation agreements were signed. The plan was subject to a trilateral safeguards agreement signed by the United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Egypt. In the late 1970s, the US unilaterally revised the bilateral agreements and introduced new conditions that were unacceptable to the Egyptian government. As a result, the decision was taken to ratify the NPT, with one goal in mind - the implementation of a nuclear power program.

Although financing problems stalled construction of power reactors from the United States, Egypt ratified the NPT in 1981, in order to be able to conclude agreements with other countries for the construction of atomic energy-production facilities. Before his assassination in 1981, President Anwar Sadat announced plans to build two nuclear power stations along the Mediterranean coast at El Dabaa. These plans, though, were subsequently shelved after the Chernobyl accident. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continued to push the Russian nuclear power plan, in 2008 Egypt signed an agreement with Russia to assist in building the first 1,000 MW nuclear power plant, scheduled be completed by 2017. By mid-2012 some new Egyptian leaders indicated that the project may be reviewed.

At one time there were [poorly attested] reports that Egypt was planning a Chinese-made power reactor, variously assessed at between 300 MW and 600 MW, that could have the capacity to produce material for the production of as many as four nuclear warheads a month. Egypt was also rumored to be seeking joint nuclear weapons research with Syria and Saudi Arabia to defray costs and allow Fgypt to continue its conventional military buildup, but a Syria connection is not entirely plausible.

In early 1992, a deal was made for Argentina to deliver one more reactor with a capacity of 22 megawatts to Egypt. The contract signed in 1991 for the delivery to Egypt of a Russian MGD-20 cyclotron accelerator remains in force. Since 1990 Egypt has been a member of the Arab Power Engineering Organization uniting 11 countries. A number of Egyptian scientific projects are being carried out under the aegis of the IAEA. There are bilateral agreements in the area of the peaceful use of atomic energy with Germany, the United States, Russia, India, China, and Argentina. There are, moreover, agreements with Great Britain and India to provide assistance in training national cadres for scientific research and work on the country's atomic enterprises.

Egypt has subscribed to the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Since 1974, Egypt has taken the initiative of proposing to render the Middle East nuclear-weapons free zone, calling all countries in the region without exception to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In April 1990, Egypt took the initiative to render the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. The 1991 Madrid Peace Conference established a multinational mechanism to work on making the Middle East a nuclear weapon-free zone. This mechanism, however, stalled three years ago as a result of the Israeli position. Egypt hosted in April 1996 the conference for signing the declaration on rendering Africa a nuclear-weapons free zone.

Russia signed an agreement November 19, 2015 to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant, in a televised ceremony attended by Egyptian President Fattah al-Sissi. Egypt's nuclear energy agency and Russia's Rosatom company signed the deal pertaining to the Dabaa nuclear power station project. Sissi said Russia will finance the project through a loan to Egypt, the most populous Arab country, with close to 90 million people. Construction of the power plant was not expected to begin for several years.

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