Egyptians fight back against nuclear power plans (JERUSALEM POST) By JOANNA PARASZCZUK 07/17/12)
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Egyptian environmental and human rights activists launched a
grassroots protest campaign this week against plans to construct a
large-scale nuclear power plant on the country’s northwestern coast.
In 1981, then-president Hosni Mubarak issued a decree to build the 55
sq.km. plant in the town of El-Dabaa in Egypt’s Matrouh governorate,
as part of a push to develop the country’s civilian nuclear program.
However, in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, plans for the
reactor were put on ice.
Now, after years of thwarted efforts, Egypt’s nuclear energy
ambitions still remain uncertain.
Though the Egyptian Electricity Ministry and the Egyptian Atomic
Energy Authority insist they will go ahead with the project, El-Dabaa
residents and activists complain that the state has illegally
confiscated land and destroyed homes in the town to pave the way for
the power plant.
Construction of the plant was scheduled to start in January, but was
delayed following violent protests by local residents who said they
had been evicted from their land.
Meanwhile, international concerns about Egypt’s lax nuclear security
were also raised in January, after the International Atomic Energy
Agency confirmed reports that low-level radioactive material had been
stolen from a laboratory at El-Dabaa.
The El-Dabaa nuclear plans faced another hurdle this week, when in a
united effort to combat the scheme, opponents of the power plant
launched a large-scale campaign at Cairo’s Journalists Syndicate on
Present were three human rights groups: the Egyptian Initiative for
Personal Rights, the Egyptian Center for Civic and Legislative Reform
and Habitat International Coalition-Housing and Land Rights Network,
as well as El-Dabaa Mayor Mehanna Abdel Hamid and residents of the
Abdel Hamid called on President Mohamed Mursi to “remove the
injustice” of the power plant from El-Dabaa.
The mayor said that in order to build the power plant, the government
had demolished 350 homes and confiscated olive, fig and wheat fields
“The El-Dabaa nuclear project is dangerous,” he added, saying that
local people were frightened about radiation from the plant.
Abdel Hamid called on Mursi to implement the project in another
location, such as the Red Sea area.
The activists also presented a report on the plant, which they said
was compiled by their own fact-finding committee. The three human
rights groups accused the Mubarak administration of failing to
disclose the details of the project, including its costs.
Ahmed Mansour, who led the fact-finding mission, accused the Egyptian
press of ignoring the plight of El-Dabaa residents while lauding
Egypt’s nuclear ambitions, the Al- Masry Al-Youm daily reported.
The activists have also taken their campaign online, promoting it via
a Facebook page. They say the protests will continue in the upcoming
Supporters of the peaceful nuclear program have also established a
Facebook campaign. Echoing generations of Egyptian leaders, the
campaign calls modern nuclear technology a source of national pride
that will “place Egypt in the ranks of developed nations.”
Former president Gamal Abdel Nasser established the Egyptian Atomic
Energy Authority in 1955. Nasser initially pushed for the country to
develop its civilian nuclear capabilities, but in the 1960s
threatened to develop a military nuclear program – motivated both by
intelligence that Israel was developing nuclear weapons and his own
ideologies that Egypt should lead the Arab world.
Egypt discarded those plans after Israel defeated it in the 1967 Six
Day War. In 1968 Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, signed the Nuclear
Non- Proliferation Treaty, enabling the country to pursue civilian
Egypt currently has two nuclear research reactors.
The first, a Van de Graaf type 2 megawatt reactor, is located at
Inshas research facility, 60 km. from Cairo. It was built and
installed in 1959 by the USSR, three years after Egypt signed a
nuclear cooperation agreement with the Soviets.
An Argentinean company, INVAP, installed the second reactor, a 22
megawatt ETTR-2 pool type, light water reactor, in 1997. According to
INVAP, the reactor is designed for neutron physics, materials
science, nuclear fuel and boron neutron capture therapy, and allows
Egypt to supply domestic medical isotopes.
According to a recent report by Washington-based nonprofit the Center
for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, development of civilian
nuclear energy is important to Egypt, since the country’s existing
power plants are unable to supply enough electricity.
In 2011, Dr. Abd El Hamid Abbas El Desoky Ibrahim, head of
development at Egypt’s Nuclear Power Plants Authority, said the
growing demand for energy in Egypt meant the country needed to “be
more concerned” with nuclear energy.
Speaking at an IAEA conference on energy and nuclear power in Africa,
Ibrahim said this included updating the El- Dabaa plant. (© 1995-
2011, The Jerusalem Post 07/17/12)
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