Israel has concerns about the Egyptian-Russian cooperation to build a nuclear power plant at Dabaa in Egypt, the Israeli expert in the field of nuclear physics and technology, Raphael Ofek, said on Thursday according to Russia Today website.
“Russia would like to return to its position as the dominant power in the Middle East, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi wants to rehabilitate his country’s economy — and once again make Egypt a central actor in the Arab world,” Ofek stated in a report published in Algemeiner Journal, New York-based newspaper, covering American and international Jewish and Israel-related news.
In his report, Ofek stated that Egypt’s entry into the nuclear arena was primarily derived from president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arab policy and from his view of Egypt as a leading country in the Arab world.
Since then, Egypt made impressive progress in building nuclear infrastructure and developing research in the field. Ofek claimed that the nuclear endeavor during the times of Nasser was not solely for “peaceful purposes,” but was also a means of developing nuclear weapons.
“After the War of 6 October, Egypt suffered from a difficult economic situation preventing it from exerting further efforts in nuclear development as Egypt had to allocate huge sums to the army’s rehabilitation. Thus Egypt decided to shift the struggle against Israel’s nuclear superiority to the diplomatic sphere,” Ofek said.
“One step that it took was to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968, though it had not ratified it. This was a tactical measure for Egypt since its nuclear program was stagnating in any case because of a lack of financial resources,” he added.
After 54 years of struggle to own a nuclear reactor for electricity production, Egypt signed final contracts with Russia to start building the country’s first nuclear power plant for peaceful activities last December.
The contracts cover designing and constructing the plant, supplying nuclear fuel, consulting services for operation and maintenance, and fuel recycling.
The plant includes four third-generation reactors with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts (MW) each, for a total of 4,800 megawatts. The plant will be built on approximately 12,000 feddans and is expected to create over 50,000 job opportunities. The first reactor will be completed in 2026, while the rest will be finished in 2028.
A preliminary agreement was signed by Egypt and Russia in November 2015 to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa, along with a $25 billion loan to cover 85 percent of the plant, with Egypt funding the remaining 15 percent. Local funding for the first two reactors will be 20 and 25 percent respectively, and will gradually increase to 35 percent for the other two reactors.
In the long term, however, the existence of nuclear power plants in Egypt could give Cairo the legitimacy to build a uranium-enrichment plant at a low enrichment rate for the production of nuclear fuel for reactors. From there the path is short to a high rate of military-grade uranium enrichment. Operating power plants can also provide legitimacy for the building of a facility for reprocessing the plants’ spent nuclear fuel. If Egypt eventually builds a plutonium production reactor, it will have a new route towards developing nuclear weapons.