Bahran: Four years to build a Yemeni atomic reactor [Archives:2007/1088/Front Page]

September 24 2007

Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA'A, September 23 ) Yemen is still negotiating with US and Canadian investors on funding construction of a nuclear reactor in the country, Energy and Electricity Minister Mustafa Bahran said Saturday.

The minister stated to the official news Agency: Saba, that the last talks session between Yemen, American and Canadian investment companies on producing electricity through nuclear energy would be held next week in Sana'a.

He said that the negotiation between Yemen and the companies aims at increasing the power capacity in Yemen to 5,000 Mega Watt to meet the electrification shortage. “It will take around four years to build the reactor,” Bahran said without specifying the cost or identifying the potential investors.

Yemen has proposed some projects in the 51st General Conference of Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, to be implemented by the Atomic agency. The proposal included the production of electricity and desalination of water through nuclear energy and establishing a center for curing cancer patients in Aden city.

Bahran, who returned Saturday from the Conference, said in that he has informed the director general of the (IAEA) Mohammed El-Baradei on talks between the government of Yemen and foreign companies on investing in nuclear energy to generate electricity and purify water in Yemen. According to Bahran, El-Baradei has praised Yemen's steps toward such an experience of peaceful use of nuclear energy to generate electricity and desalinate drinking water.

The nuclear energy projects were part of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's election program. Saleh, who has backed Arab world's right to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful ends, has invited the private sector to participate in renewable energy activities in Yemen, and agreed to buy electric stations generated by foreign or local companies.u Saleh has also declared during his election campaign that Yemen will use nuclear energy to cover the shortage of electricity in the country, which experiences frequent blackouts and daily power shutdowns

Bahran has stated to Yemen Times earlier, that power ministry has long-term plan to construct a power plant in Mareb with a capacity of producing 341 Megawatts. This plant, when created, is expected to boost the national supply and therefore limit any power cuts. It will work on natural gas and can be converted to using nuclear power in the future.

However, the atomic reactor project has received criticism in the past due to the poor security level in the country. Others have challenged the government's ability to arrange for adequate disposal of nuclear waste.

Yet, according to Bahran, Tomihiro Taniguchi who is directing the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security Affairs at IAEA said the agency is ready to train Yemeni employees in field of nuclear safety, adding that the agency would dispatch a mission to the country to draw up a program in this field.

IAEA, which has spent around $1.5 million so far to train Yemeni staff and offered nuclear equipment to hospitals to cure prostate cancer patients.