Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has said that the country is to build several nuclear power plants and will seek to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the US government in developing the plants.

The plants will help Egypt to meet the twin goals of rising energy demand and improved energy security. “We believe that energy security is a major part of building the future for this country and an integral part of Egypt’s national security system,” said Mubarak. The president added that the civil programme would work “within a framework of transparency and respect of commitments to the nuclear non-proliferation system”.

Egypt froze its nuclear programme 20 years ago after the Chernobyl accident. However, demand for electricity is rising at seven per cent per year and has forced Mubarak to revisit the issue.

The prospect of new nuclear build in the country will open investment opportunities for equipment makers. France’s Areva is thought likely to gain contracts due to its close historical ties with Egypt.

Other countries in the region that have announced peaceful nuclear ambitions include Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.