Egypt Moving Ahead on Nuclear Program

Just days after its president announced last week that Egypt is working on a peaceful nuclear energy program, the country's Energy Ministry says it has a plan to develop three nuclear power plants.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 15:51

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced last week that the energy program was intended for peaceful purposes, namely to reduce his country's dependency on oil and develop a clean and inexpensive energy source.

The Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported earlier this week that Egypt's Energy Ministry has already updated its long-range energy development program. The program now includes the construction of three nuclear power plants, to be built along the Mediterranean coast of northwestern Egypt. One plant is scheduled to be completed by 2009, and two others are set for completion between 2015 and 2020.

Egypt will be seeking long-range loans from Western countries to cover the costs of the project. The United States has responded warmly to the idea, and its ambassador in Cairo, Francis Ricciardone, said the U.S. is "ready to supply nuclear technology to friendly states which want to benefit from civilian, peaceful nuclear power."

"There is no comparison between Iran and Egypt in this field," he told the Egyptian TV station El-Mehwar. "Iran has a nuclear weapons program, but using nuclear power for peaceful means is totally different matter."

Israel, too, is not concerned about possible Egyptian nuclear power, as Prime Minister Olmert said earlier this week. Some Israeli security experts, such as former Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Dr. Yuval Shteinitz, have long warned that Egypt has hostile designs on Israel.

Egypt's government estimates that its oil reserves will be depleted within 20 years unless new oil fields are discovered. Egypt is the Arab world's most populous country.