Egypt's Quest for a Nuclear Future
In 2015 Egypt signed an agreement with ROSATOM, the Russian state atomic energy corporation, to build a nuclear power plant at Al Dabaa on the country’s northern coast, west of Alexandria. The agreement is a culmination of around six decades of discussions and plans in Egypt to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Egypt first launched a civilian nuclear programme in 1954, two years after its independence, and has two research reactors, which are currently operational. This report assesses Egypt’s plans to proceed with the construction of the power plant, which are firmly underway. It gives an overview of the context in which the project has emerged, situating it within modern Egyptian history and politics. It also discusses the country’s normative frameworks on nuclear energy and the current legal and regulatory governance of nuclear energy, including the role played by different nuclear entities and bodies. The report then examines the Al Dabaa project in depth, focusing on the involvement of international actors, the programme’s financing, the country’s energy needs, the project’s localisation, and Egyptian technical expertise and education. It highlights various objections to the project – in terms of land, security, economy and the environment – that have been raised by diverse social groups and actors. The revival of the power plant project is deeply interwoven with elements of technonationalism and modernism. It is one of several mega-projects that aim to boost national prestige. Its design and implementation have been top-down and highly centralised. Furthermore, concerns over risks and/or accidents have been met with a response that exclusively emphasises technological solutions, imbuing technology with a saviour-like role and rendering invisible any vulnerabilities inherent to nuclear energy.