Sudan and China signed an agreement Monday to build the first nuclear reactor in the east African country, despite terrorism concerns and heavy Islamic State presence.
The two countries announced a plan to build a massive nuclear power plant in Sudan with Chinese technical and fiscal assistance. The reactor will generate electricity as well as conduct scientific research and encourage the use of atomic energy in Africa.
“The agreement will allow Sudan to build in the future a nuclear plant to generate nuclear energy for peaceful use,” Mohamed Abdelrahim Jawish, a spokesperson for Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources and Electricity, told a news outlet. “This preliminary agreement was signed on Monday and we are now talking of capacities.”
Many of Sudan’s citizens have joined ISIS and the terrorist group has likely already infiltrated the country. Sudan is politically unstable and is regularly cited as an area of ISIS influence. The country’s former southern region outright seceded in 2011.
Sudan has considered building nuclear reactors since 2007 and wants to have a four-reactor, 4,400 megawatt nuclear power plant operating by 2030, according to the World Nuclear Association. The entire country’s electric grid only covered 2,200 megawatts in 2012. Sudan announced an agreement with China in December 2012 to build a research nuclear reactor, with the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The plant would likely not enrich uranium to weapons grade levels, but any uranium used by the plant could also be used to create a dirty bomb — a weapon that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives, which could contaminate the local area with high radiation levels for long periods of time. 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.
China has invested more than $20 billion in Sudan, mostly in the oil sector, over the past two decades. Beijing provides low-interest loans and weapons transfers in return for oil. Building the nuclear reactors is projected to cost $10 billion.
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