It was widely reported
that Israel has cooperated with South Africa and recently with India on
the nuclear tests they performed a couple of years ago. I also read that
some of the heads tested belonged to Israel.
weapons is not far fetched for Israel and it perfectly fits their psychology.
I am sure it would be easier for them to purchase this technology than
for a country like Iraq specialy with the U.S giving the nod of approval
or just a blind eye. Regards, Emad
Ahlan biyk ya
Thank you for your
response. I too strongly believe that no power engaged in the production
of nuclear weaponry can afford not to test its warheads. Mainly because,
without testing, scientists could never be sure that they would work properly.
Even today, with all the advancements in the field, nuclear technology
is still tricky. As the French nuclear proliferation expert Bruno
Tertrais said, "It's like cooking. The fact that you have the recipe
does not make you a chef."
For those interested
in this subject, I am including, below, a very important article entitled,
Egypt: Nuclear Chronology based on the works of Dr. Muhammad al-Sayyid
Saliym, a Professor of Political Science at the Universities of Cairo and
Kuwait. The gist of Dr. Saliym's argument is best echoed by Makram
Muhammad Ahmad in al-Ahram newspaper :
"It has become
the responsibility of Egypt toward its future generations to start, now
and not tomorrow, conducting a wide-scale review of its decision to suspend
its nuclear program."
In light of recent
events, the call for reviving our nuclear program is rapidly gaining momentum
Interest in nuclear energy was first sparked
in Egypt by the Atoms for Peace program launched by U.S. President Dwight
Eisenhower in 1953. As soon as the U.S. Atomic Energy Act was passed in
1954 (which allowed the U.S. authorities to enter cooperative arrangements
with other countries), the Egyptian Revolutionary Command Council (RCC)
opened talks with the United States. This led to the installation
of a radioisotope laboratory in Egypt's National Research Center in June
1956, and a training program for Egyptian scientists. One year earlier,
Egypt had founded the Atomic Energy Commission under Col. Kamal El-Din
Hussein, a member of the RCC.
U.S. cooperation in this period was genuine;
as then-U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Henry A. Byroade emphasized, the United
States was eager to help other countries enlist nuclear technology and
upgrade living standards. It was official U.S. policy, to proliferate the
technology for peaceful uses.
Political differences between the United
States and Egypt regarding other matters (like relations with China, and
the High Dam project, financially backed by the Soviet Union), according
to Prof. Mohammad El-Sayed Selim, were responsible for a shift in Cairo,
away from cooperation with Washington, and towards cooperation with Moscow.
In January 1956, an Egyptian delegation traveled to the Soviet capital
to seal an agreement whereby the Soviets would construct an experimental
4-MW reactor and a nuclear physics lab, at a minimal cost to Egypt. Egyptian
scientists were trained in the Soviet Union to run reactors, and in 1961,
a research reactor was set up.
Egypt thus became the first Arab country
to access nuclear technology, as a by-product of Cold War rivalries, which
saw Moscow seeking to establish a position in the region. Egypt, obviously
dependent on Russia for the technology, training, and fuel, sought to establish
cooperation with other countries as well in the nuclear field. The Egyptian
Atomic Energy Corporation (EAEC) made contact with Britain, and a commission,
led by the Egyptian Minister of Scientific Research, explored two important
factors related to the country's future program: thorium as a potential
local source, and a means of financing the program.
In 1965, it was decided to buy a commercial-scale
150-MW plant at Borg El-Arab, for the purposes of desalinating Mediterranean
seawater, 2,000 cubic meters per day. However, deteriorating political
relations with the West hindered adequate financing and halted cooperation,
for example, with West Germany, such that Egypt then turned to China for
help. Nasser's appeal to Chou En-Lai for a share in China's knowledge of
the technology, was met with the Chinese leader's recommendation that Egypt
Under Nasser, the Atomic Energy Corporation
did outline a program for Egypt's energy needs, to be met through nuclear
technology, through the year 2000. In the projection of one nuclear scientist
working on the program, Egypt should have had eight nuclear power plants,
with a capacity of 5,400 megawatts, in operation by the turn of the century.
The plan did not come into being, however, because of the lack of financial
backing and an inadequate scientific infrastructure.
Notwithstanding, the EAEC continued its
planning, and in 1974, with Anwar Sadat in the Presidency, the EAEC projected
the need for 6,600 megawatts of nuclear-produced electricity by the year
2000. The EAEC moved to build a 600-MW plant at Sidi-Kreir, near Alexandria,
by 1984. As U.S.-Egyptian relations improved after the 1973 Yom Kippur
war, the Nixon Administration, a year later, offered to help both Egypt
and Israel with nuclear energy programs. But Israel balked at the stringent
inspection procedures which the United States demanded of both countries,
and because Israel's agreement was a precondition for the Egyptian program
to go through, the project was terminated. The United States did maintain
a commitment, however, to provide enriched uranium to Egypt.
Again, the Egyptians maneuvered in the
Cold War environment, seeking to achieve their national interest for energy
independence, and announced an agreement with the Soviets for supply of
a 460-MW reactor, in 1975. This prompted the United States to rethink its
conditionalities, and led to a November 1975 agreement for the sale of
reactors to Egypt. In the agreement, it was stipulated that:
None of the assistance provided will be
employed for any military purposes, including the manufacture of any nuclear
The materials and facilities to be supplied
as well as the produced plutonium will be subjected to international safeguards,
administered by the IAEA, designed to assure their continued uses for peaceful
Facilities utilizing relevant nuclear technology
obtained from the United States will be under effective safeguards.
Egypt guarantees to apply effective physical
security measures to the facilities and nuclear material covered by the
Professor Selim elaborated on this: "The
statement also included an unprecedented condition that obliged Egypt to
reprocess, fabricate, and store the plutonium produced by the U.S. reactors
or derived from the U.S. fuel supplied for their facilities outside of
According to the agreement, Egypt was supposed
to buy two reactors, and 1978 was the date set for the transaction. But
the demand by the U.S. Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), that all activities
be subjected to U.S. inspection, was rejected by Egypt—and that was that.
A Debate and Ambitious Plans
Egypt was motivated not only by its national
energy needs, to seek to possess nuclear technology, Professor Selim said,
but also, by its awareness that Israel was ready to deploy nuclear weapons
against the Arabs.
Sadat had set up a Higher Council for Atomic
Energy in 1975 (the same body that has just recently reconvened), bringing
together all the relevant personnel and groups, to study a national nuclear
effort. The Higher Council, which became the highest authority for decision-making
on nuclear policy, included the President and Vice President, the Prime
Minister, the Ministers of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Electricity, and
the head of the General Intelligence Agency.
A lengthy debate ensued in Egypt, as to
whether or not it should sign the NPT, also because of the military option.
But Egypt did sign and ratify the NPT on February 26, 1981. Once this hurdle
had been overcome, Egypt signed a deal with France on March 21, 1981 for
two reactors, of 1,000 megawatts each. In July 1981, it signed a deal with
the United States for two reactors, and in September 1981, Egypt contracted
with West Germany for another two reactors. All the deals called for the
seller to provide the fuel.
The French reactors, at a cost of $1 billion
each, were slated for El-Dabaa near Alexandria, and Za'afrana, 140 km west
of Alexandria. The first was to start operating in 1985, the second, in
None of these exciting plans reached implementation,
however. President Sadat was assassinated on Oct. 6, 1981, and was succeeded
by Hosni Mubarak, who was elected in a referendum. The United States pulled
out of the project, followed by France and West Germany, and so Egypt had
to issue an international bid for the eight 1,000-MW plants that it hoped
to build. In August, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which had been committed
to provide $200 million for the program, made known its intention to refuse
any financing, because it said, "the proposal did not offer reasonable
assurance of repayment."
In the following years, Egypt continued
to pursue partners for its program, and signed several agreements with
Niger, a uranium producer (1983), Switzerland (1984), Pakistan (1985),
Iraq (1985), Australia (1985), and South Korea (1985). On Aug. 11, 1985,
Al-Ahram wrote that Egypt would begin operations at its first uranium mine,
and that further shafts would be opened to explore deposits.
Then, in 1986, the Chernobyl disaster hit
in Ukraine, and buried the Egyptian nuclear program (along with the programs
of other countries) for 20 years. Immediately after Egypt announced the
suspension of its program because of the safety concerns raised by the
Chernobyl accident, the United States made an offer to build conventional
power plants, on condition that Egypt mothball its nuclear ambitions—which
Can Egypt Do It Today?
Although the inside story of how Egypt's
ambitious nuclear energy program was killed has to be filled out and documented
beyond the rough sketch provided here, there is every reason to suspect
that the program was deliberately sabotaged, as part of the general anti-nuclear
campaign launched, especially against nations of the developing sector,
by the neo-malthusian crowd which gained preeminence beginning in the 1970s.
Henry Kissinger's infamous threat to Pakistani leader Ali Bhutto, that
he would "make an example of him," because Bhutto strove to give his nation
nuclear energy, should be kept in mind. Bhutto was brutally assassinated
in 1979. Additionally, in 1974, Kissinger oversaw the drafting of the National
Security Study Memorandum 200, which specifically listed Egypt as one of
the developing sector countries in which the United States had a "strategic
interest" in cutting population growth, and hence industrial development,
in order to preserve the raw materials of those nations for the United
States. The NSSM 200 was declassified in 1990.
Since then, the world has changed. Not
only Pakistan, but also India, have joined the nuclear club, this time
with tested weapons capabilities. As for civilian applications of nuclear
energy, there is a veritable renaissance taking place worldwide, and this
includes in the Middle East.
Two months prior to the first official
announcement by Gamal Mubarak of Egypt's intent to go nuclear, an important
article appeared in Al-Ahram, by Makram Muhammad Ahmad, entitled,
"Nuclear Plants and Egypt's National Security." The author stated that
the 21st Century "will be the century of nuclear energy," for widely acknowledged
reasons: the rising costs of petroleum and gas, and the fact that they
are not unlimited, and the proven safety and efficiency of nuclear technology."For
this," he went on, "it has become the responsibility of Egypt toward
its future generations to start, now and not tomorrow, conducting a wide-scale
review of its decision to suspend its nuclear program. It should do
so because the reasons that led to this suspension are over, and the international
demand requires the expansion of the construction of nuclear plants, and
the average time for building a nuclear plant is more than ten years or
perhaps longer due to the increase in world demand."
Ahmad went on to tick off the number of
plants being planned by countries in the region over the next 20 years:
Iran wants to have 12; Turkey wants as many, to provide 20% of its needs;
Israel wants a desalination facility in Shafta near the Egyptian border,
as does Libya. Ahmad also argued that Egypt, with a population of 70 million,
can provide energy from its own resources only for three decades, after
which it would become import-dependent.
Finally, the author argued that possessing
nuclear technology would "enhance the status of any regional country in
the international arena, increase the country's negotiation ability, and
help protect its national security." Without aspiring to a military program,
he wrote, Egypt could use its nuclear capability to push for regulations
on Israel's nuclear arsenal, in the context of regional demands for a zone
free of weapons of mass destruction.
This Al-Ahram article is one of many in
Egypt contributing to the lively debate that has been sparked by around
reviving the country's nuclear program.
One question raised, given the ongoing
anti-Iran crusade, which uses the pretext of its nuclear program, is: How
will Washington respond? U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone was quoted
on Sept. 25, in remarks made to Al-Mehwar television, that "the U.S. encourages
the peaceful use of nuclear power for civilian purposes throughout the
world." It will take a political fight to make such a statement stick,
but it appears that there are forces in Egypt ready to make a bid for it.
Dr. Muhammad al-Sayyid Saliym
is Professor of Political Science at the Universities of Cairo and Kuwait.
 "Egypt," by Muhammad al-Sayyid
Saliym, in Nuclear Power in Developing Countries: An Analsis of Decision
Making, eds. James Everett Katz and Onkar S. Marwah (Lexington, Mass.:
Lexington Books, D.C. Heath and Co., 1982), pp. 135-159.
Most of this historical background to Egypt's
nuclear program has been drawn from this source. See also, by the same
author: "Egypt and the Middle Eastern Nuclear Issue," Strategic Analysis,
January 1996, pp. 1388-89.
 Ibid., p. 135.
 Quoted by Saliym, Ibid., p.
 Saliym, Ibid.
 "NTI: Country Overviews: Egypt:
Nuclear Chronology," (Monterey Institute of International Studies, The
Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 2003), p. 3.
 Excerpts from NSSM 200 can be
found in The Genocidal Roots of Bush's 'New World Order,' EIR Special Report,
1992, p. 53 ff.