Egypt’s ministries of electricity and investment and international cooperation signed an agreement on August 6 that would see landmines cleared from the Al-Dabaa area, where a nuclear power plant is being constructed.
Egypt’s entanglement with landmines has a dark history. It remains the country most contaminated by landmines in the world, and an estimated 7,923 Egyptians have fallen victim to landmines over the past 25 years. The areas with the highest contamination remain the north coast, which was saturated with landmines during WWII, and areas in Sinai, as a result of wars with neighboring Israel.
The EGP 2 million-protocol covers an area of 11,000 feddans on Egypt’s northern coast, and the implementation of the plant is expected to take place before the end of 2017. However, even before the landmine issue emerged, the Al-Dabaa nuclear power plant has sparked a huge debate in the country.
“We have the main two big factors: price and source,” Amena Sharaf, an environmental researcher, told BECAUSE.
“Why oh why are we taking this extremely costly road? Can we really afford it? And for how long are we going to depend on foreign resources?” she questioned. Russia and Cairo signed an agreement in November 2015 for Russia to build the nuclear power plant in Egypt. Russia will loan Egypt $25 billion to finance the building and operation of the nuclear power plant. Egypt will pay an interest rate of 3% annually, and installment payments will begin on October 15, 2029.
As the world turns toward focusing on renewable energy sources, with the Paris Climate Agreement taking the lead, Egypt seems to be taking a step backward. As a country with sunshine all year long and an abundance of renewable energy sources, Egypt had announced plans to supply 20 percent of generated electricity from renewable sources by 2022. Yet, around the same time, the nuclear power plant was being discussed. The power plant in Al-Dabaa is to consist of four power units with a capacity of 1,200MW each.
The Egyptian Parliament’s Energy and Environment Committee is discussing a new law that aims to regulate nuclear plants construction in Egypt. The new nuclear law consists of 19 articles, which aims at creating “the executive authority on the supervision of the construction of nuclear power station projects”.
Environmentalists have several other fears, on top of which is radioactive waste. The world has yet to devise a way to properly store the hazardous material that is an inevitable outcome of operating nuclear power plants.
Khalid Ouda, a geologist at Egypt’s Assiut University, previously warned about the region’s calcareous soil. This may lead to the formation of underwater caves affecting the construction of the reactor.
A parliamentary delegation visited a giant Russian nuclear reactor in St. Petersburg in April to “verify that the highest-level of risk-free operation of such reactors will be strictly observed,” according to state-owned Al-Ahram.
“Egypt’s sustainable development strategy mentions energy independence, [but] this is not in any way shape or form, reflected in the government’s actions,” Sharaf added.
Al-Dabaa nuclear power plant is expected to be completed by 2022, with the first of its four reactors set to start energy production in 2024.
“Why are they insisting on this? Is the only reason a need for energy or are there other reasons?” were Sharaf’s final thoughts.