Egypt wants to go nuclear

AFP/Getty Images For anyone who has every seen the sorry state of Egypt’s infrastructure up close, this is terrifying news: CAIRO – President Hosni Mubarak announced yesterday that Egypt, which lacks the oil reserves of some of its Middle East neighbors, would build several nuclear power plants to meet rising energy demands. The statement was ...

598445_071030_gamal_05.jpg
598445_071030_gamal_05.jpg

AFP/Getty Images

For anyone who has every seen the sorry state of Egypt's infrastructure up close, this is terrifying news:

CAIRO - President Hosni Mubarak announced yesterday that Egypt, which lacks the oil reserves of some of its Middle East neighbors, would build several nuclear power plants to meet rising energy demands.

AFP/Getty Images

For anyone who has every seen the sorry state of Egypt’s infrastructure up close, this is terrifying news:

CAIRO – President Hosni Mubarak announced yesterday that Egypt, which lacks the oil reserves of some of its Middle East neighbors, would build several nuclear power plants to meet rising energy demands.

The statement was made in a nationally televised address and seemed to have twin purposes: overhaul an energy policy to keep pace with economic growth and support his son, Gamal, who has stressed the need for nuclear power and who many analysts regard as a front-runner to succeed the 79-year-old president.

Gamal first proposed this idea at the 2006 conference of the ruling National Democratic Party, an annual meeting that is coming up again soon. It’s a winning issue for the president’s son, who lacks populist credentials and is often tagged by his critics as a momma’s boy. So far, the United States is OK with Egypt’s plan:

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States would not object to Egypt’s program as long as Cairo adhered to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines.

The subtext here is, of course, Iran’s own nuclear program, which makes daily headlines in Cairo. It’s highly doubtful that the Egyptians would pursue nuclear weapons and even more doubtful that they would get away with such a thing, nor is it even clear that Egypt would seek to enrich uranium on its own rather than purchasing it from abroad. But the enrichment route is certainly a possibility, given the national pride at stake and the concomitant political benefits for Gamal. And Egypt may be looking for more than simple acquiescence from the United States. Commenting last year on Gamal’s proposal, an analyst at the Al-Ahram Center, a government-funded think tank in Cairo, asked, “Why should the U.S. assist India in its nuclear program and not Egypt?”

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