Egypt’s government has banned unauthorized reporting about a nuclear power station being constructed on the country’s Mediterranean coast. According to a bulletin from state news agency MENA, all reports about the nuclear project at Dabaa must be cleared by the Ministry of Electricity and security authorities.
On November 19, Egypt and Russia signed an agreement to collaborate in the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant with four units each capable of producing 1,200 megawatts of electricity.
The deal with Russia is a major step towards realizing nuclear ambitions held by Egypt since the days of President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Director General of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation Sergey Kirienko proclaimed in a company press release that the Dabaa project will be the largest joint Russian-Egyptian project since the Aswan Dam, and will make Egypt a regional technological leader.
Hussein al-Shafei, head of the Egyptian-Russian Institute for Culture and Sciences, previously told Mada Masr energy production will begin in five years, guaranteeing Egypt’s energy needs and fueling local development projects.
The project is not without controversy, however. The 17-kilometer stretch of beachfront property allocated for the project in the 1980s was traditionally used by local Bedouin for grazing, access to sea fishing and small-scale agriculture. The area was forcibly evicted in 2003, re-occupied during the 2011 revolution, and evicted again in 2012.
Other critics have questioned the country’s capacity to operate the plant safely, and raised concerns about the site’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
“I’m sure that Egypt has the capability and the will to have trained operators when the plant comes online,” Mounir Megahed, a former vice chairperson of Egypt’s Nuclear Power Plants Authority who is now a technical adviser to the agency, told Mada Masr earlier this year.
According to classified US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks, however, Nuclear Power Plants Authority Chairperson Yassin Ibrahim told American officials in 2009 that Egypt suffered from a lack of human capacity, without enough trained professionals across different levels and sectors related even indirectly to a nuclear power program.