Energy

Egypt Gets $25 Billion From Russia To Build Nuclear Reactors, Despite Terror Risk

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Egypt’s president announced Sunday the country will accept a Russian loan of $25 billion in order to build a nuclear power plant, despite recent terrorism and civil unrest in the country.

The loan will finance longstanding Egyptian plans to build a new reactor in Dabaa, despite long running terrorism concerns in the region. Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, signed a nuclear power plant deal with Russia last November, just days after the Kremlin announced a Russian aircraft was downed by an act of terrorism, killing all 224 people on board. The plane was heading from an Egyptian resort city to St. Petersburg in Russia.

Groups tied to the Islamic State (ISIS) have made repeated attacks in Egypt, even killing nine people, six of whom were police officers, with a bomb in Cairo in January. Egypt is also politically unstable, and has changed presidents three times since 2011. The country’s former president, Mohamed Morsi, was removed from office by a military coup in 2013 and sentenced to death last May.

Egypt has planned to build a nuclear reactor since 1955, but aborted most of its plans after the Chernobyl accident. Egyptian interest in nuclear power was renewed after the country signed nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia in 2004 and 2008, according to the World Nuclear Association. Egypt currently operates two extremely small and old reactors with technical assistance from Russia and Argentina.

The proposed Egyptian reactors would not produce the weapons-grade plutonium necessary for a nuclear bomb, but materials from the planned reactors could be used to create dirty bombs.

A dirty bomb combines radioactive material with conventional explosives that could contaminate the local area with high radiation levels for long periods of time and cause mass panic. ISIS has expressed interest in stealing radioactive material for a dirty bomb — though it would be millions of times weaker than an actual nuclear device.

Russia has supported the development of nuclear power in other countries with terrorism issues, such as Algeria.

Serious issues with terrorist groups in Algeria, like al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) — a group of Islamist militants aimed to overthrow the Algerian government and create an Islamic state — have also not hampered Russia’s desire to build nuclear reactors. AQIM is designated as a terrorist organization by U.S. officials. The group even pledged allegiance to the ISIS in late Feburary.

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