In an attempt to reassure other nations of Egypt’s peaceful intentions Mubarak said his country will not import enriched uranium, as tensions over the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea abound.
The announcement came during the opening of a conventional power station in Cairo.
In November last year, Mubarak stressed that Egypt did not need anyone’s permission to develop nuclear energy, having signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The most populous Arab country now joins Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have all announced peaceful nuclear ambitions.
In Washington, Sean McCormack, the state department spokesman, said the US would not object to the programme as long as Egypt adhered to the NPT and IAEA guidelines.
“For those states who want to pursue peaceful nuclear energy … that’s not a problem for us,” he said. “Those are countries that we can work with.”
‘Transparency and respect’
Mubarak’s announcement relaunches a nuclear programme that was halted more than 20 years ago.
A nuclear energy programme started by Egypt in the 1970s was abandoned in 1986 after the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.
Amr el-Kahky, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said while the announcement was not wholly unexpected it did come as something of a surprise after 12 months of silence on the nuclear issue.
“Egypt has spoken to the United States about it, and talked to the regional powers here, explaining exactly what they need,” he said.
“They need nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes, for energy generation, especially with Egypt’s energy needs growing year after year with the ever-growing population”.
El-Kahky said that Egypt’s population of 76-77 million needs at least 10 per cent increases in power annually.
“This is very demanding and Egypt has to live up to the challenge. The United States has never said no to that, as long as it is peaceful”, el-Kahky said.