Yemen cancels construction contract of five nuclear reactors [Archives:2007/1099/Front Page]

November 1 2007

By: Almigdad Dahesh Mojalli
SANA'A, Oct. 31 – Yemen canceled the initial contract signed between the Ministry of Electricity and Power and the U.S. company Powered Corp. to build five nuclear reactors to generate electricity on Tuesday.

The Yemeni Cabinet refused to endorse the memorandum of understanding, signed on September 24 between Powered Corp. of Houston, Texas and Yemen's Energy and Electricity Ministry.

The decision was taken after the publication of information stating that the company was not qualified to carry out the project. The information was exposed by Yemeni-American journalist Moneer Al-Mawri, who revealed that the U.S. company with which the Ministry of Electricity has signed the contract is owned by a Yemeni businessman named Jalal Al-Ghani, a friend of Yemen's electricity minister. Moreover, the Committee of Shares Exchange in the U.S. warned that the status of the company isn't safe. The committee added that the company is in financial debt and hasn't completed many projects in its field.

Yemen's Energy and Electricity Minister, Mustafa Bahran, said last month that a $3 million feasibility study would be jointly funded by the Yemeni government and the U.S. company.

The Anti-corruption Authority sent a message to Prime Minister Ali Mujawar last Sunday asking him to stop all procedures leading to any commitment by the state to any party, including commitments based on participation in cultural, economic and technical studies, until the authority finishes its investigation in this subject.

The head of the authority's investigation sector sent a message to Bahran, in which he asked for all the documents concerning the initial contract of constructing five nuclear reactors as soon as possible.

The head of the investigation sector expressed his surprise that the Ministry of Electricity didn't send all the documents related to the agreement immediately after the authority's first request a month ago.

Yemen had planned to build five nuclear reactors over four years. The aim of the reactors was to increase Yemen's power capacity to 5,000 megawatts to meet the electricity shortage.

The nuclear energy projects were part of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's re-election program. Saleh, who has backed the 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 constructed by foreign or local firms.

Wind power instead of nuclear power

The Cabinet's decision does not prevent the Minister of Electricity and Energy from signing a memorandum of understanding with Ken Johns, board chairman of the British Manj Company, with the aim of generating wind power in Yemen.

In its report, Yemen's Saba News Agency said that according to the memo, the company will conduct a feasibility study regarding the generation of 1,000 megawatts of electricity by means of wind power in forthcoming years. The memo also mentioned that the company will offer suggestions regarding supply according to the study results.

Bahran pointed out the importance of this study to enable his ministry to implement wind-generated power projects, adding that the World Bank has carried out such a study for generating wind power in Mokha with a capacity of 15 megawatts.

For his part, Johns expressed his aspiration to invest in this field in Yemen, noting that the feasibility study will clarify cost, price and time of implementing the project.