Egypt announced Sunday that it has discovered large reserves of natural uranium, Walla News reported.
Mohsen Ali Mohammed, the head of the Nuclear Materials Authority of Egypt, said that Egypt intended to mine the resource, which can be used as fuel for nuclear reactors. Mohammed added that Egypt plans to offer uranium mining contracts to international companies.
Egypt has had an on-again, off-again nuclear power program. In 1961 it acquired a nuclear reactor from the Soviet Union, and in 1975 the U.S. agreed in principle on a program to supply Egypt with power reactors. The agreement was later canceled after the U.S. added terms that the Egyptians considered unacceptable. In 2004-2005, the IAEA investigated previously undisclosed experiments conducted by Egyptian scientists involving uranium.
In recent years, the Mubarak government pursued plans to develop nuclear power for electricity, officially attributing the decision to a need to diversify energy sources. But commentators also attributed the decision to Egyptian concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran.
Unlike Israel, Egypt is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and can therefore receive international assistance in developing a nuclear power program.