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Arabs have right to nuclear energy for power-generation

Arab countries all have right to nuclear power, for use in generating electricity, and the cost is much lower than with use of oil, natural gas, coal, or hydro-electric methods, head of the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plants Authority Yassin Ibrahim said Wednesday.

But, the official told KUNA, only a few Arab countries possess the infrastructure required for setting up nuclear plants, including the qualified human resources, the legislative and regulatory environment, and necessary resources and control measures for safe operation.

"There are 439 nuclear power plants in the world, producing up to 16 percent of the global consumption of electricity, while coal is used for generating about 39 percent and 19 percent comes through hydro-electric stations, 15 percent from use of natural gas, and 11 percent from oil fuel," Ibrahim said.

The official pointed out the conventional fuels used in generating power contribute to the world's current high-level pollution and worsening in the hole in the ozone layer in Earth's atmosphere.

He noted that most nuclear power plants are located in Europe and America.

"In the US, there are 103 plants while France has 59 plants and Japan 55 for the same purpose," Ibrahim said. "The Arab world is yet to have a single plant at the time when Africa has only one, in South Africa." In addition to power-generation, the Egyptian official emphasized the inevitability of using nuclear power for other civilian purposes such as water desalination and industrial and medical research.

According to Ibrahim, only 10 among 31 countries which operate nuclear plants possess uranium-enrichment technology.

On safety in nuclear plants, chief of Egyptian Nuclear Power Plants Authority told KUNA that based on international data, there were 30 accidents resulting from the use of coal for power generation from 1979 to 2002, claiming the lives of 35 people. Accidents at stations using oil hit 11 leading to 3,449 deaths within the same period. Four other accidents occurred in hydro-electric stations in 23 years killing 3,776 people.

"Within the same period, only one accident took place at a nuclear plant claiming the lives of 31 people, an indication of how the element of safety is well maintained there," he added.

Ibrahim urged Arab countries to establish nuclear power plants, which he said cause less harm to the environment and human population compared to other sources.

As for discarding nuclear waste, he said it can be turned into solid substances and stored in capsules that do not wear out or allow mixing with ground water. No radiation can ever be emitted from the stored waste. "Of course, monitors are set to maintain control," he said.

One of the significant advantages of generating electricity through nuclear power is that the method is much cheaper than conventional methods, in light of rising oil prices. In addition, the hypothetical life span of a nuclear plant is 60 years, up from only 30 for other alternatives. At the same time, production capacity is also much higher.

Marseille,02 14 2007
The Daily Star
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