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Egypt will issue a tender for its nuclear power plants in about two weeks time and bidding companies will be given six months to present their offers, its minister of electricity and energy said on Sunday.
The Arab world's most populous country is aiming to shift away from oil and gas to other sources and has said it wants to build four nuclear plants by 2025, with the first to start operating in 2019.
"The tender should be out by the end of January and is now being reviewed by the state council," Hassan Younes said in an interview in Abu Dhabi.
Officials hope the new nuclear programme will add capacity of up to 4,000 megawatts by 2025.
"We have received interest for the bid from companies in all parts of the world including France, the United States, China, Russia and Japan," said Younes. The winner of the bid will be announced by the end of July or beginning of August 2012, he added.
The ministry had invited several firms for consultancy and project briefings, including French nuclear reactor maker Areva, engineering group Alstom and Westinghouse Electric, a US-based unit of Japan's Toshiba.
In 2009, Egypt signed a deal with Australia's WorleyParsons for a nuclear power consultancy.
On Sunday, Orascom Construction Industries, Egypt's biggest listed builder, said it had formed a joint venture with state-owned Arab Contractors to bid on nuclear projects in the Middle East, including Egypt's first nuclear power plant.
That plant will be located in Dabaa on the country's Mediterranean coast.
Asked about possible political tension that could arise from Egypt using nuclear power, Younes said there was no intention of enriching uranium domestically and the energy will be used for peaceful purposes.
"This is a peaceful nuclear programme, so there are no problems," he added.
Last year, the United Nations slapped a fourth round of sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, which with further refinement can yield materials for weapons.
Western powers fear Iran is using its nuclear programme to develop weapons, while Tehran says it needs power generation to meet rapidly rising demand.
Egypt has installed capacity of about 23,500 MW, but strained to meet demand during an unusually hot summer, leading to intermittent power cuts across the grid. It has said it aims for an additional 58,000 MW of capacity to the grid by 2027.
"The growth rate for power demand in the peak hours was up 11.2 per cent from previous summer, but this summer I don't expect there will be any outages because we increased our power generation by 6 per cent which is 1500 mega watts," said Younes.
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