SANAA (AFP) — Yemen on Monday signed a deal with Powered Corp of the United States to build nuclear power plants at an estimated cost of 15 billion dollars.
The agreement with the Houston-based company envisages the construction of five nuclear reactors over 10 years to produce nuclear power, Energy and Electricity Minister Mustafa Bahran told AFP.
"The overall cost of the project is estimated at 15 billion dollars. It features the construction of five nuclear reactors over 10 years," Bahran said.
"Powered Corporation will oversee efforts to secure the financing of the project," he said.
Bahran said a three-million-dollar feasibility study jointly funded by the Yemeni government and the US firm would be launched in the first half of next year and he expected construction of the first reactor to get under way in early 2009.
In remarks after the signing of the deal in Sanaa, Bahran told reporters the venture aimed at producing a total of 5,000 megawatts of nuclear power "in accordance with international conventions and laws and in keeping with the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."
The first reactor should be ready to produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity by the end of 2012, Bahran told AFP.
The announcement of the deal came just two days after Bahran said that Yemen would hold talks with US and Canadian firms with the aim of reaching a "final agreement" on producing nuclear energy in the impoverished Arabian peninsula republic.
Bahran, who spoke after returning from the IAEA's general conference in Vienna, said he had informed the UN watchdog's chief Mohamed ElBaradei of Yemen's talks with the companies.
Bahran said on Monday that the project provides for desalinating sea water, and stressed that the nuclear power will be "economically competitive, that is, cheaper than the electricity we produce today."
Yemen has suffered power shortages since the mid-1990s, with almost daily power cuts in major cities, especially during the summer, and experts say it currently produces no more than 800 megawatts of electricity.
Its deal with the US firm comes to the backdrop of tensions in the Gulf region due to the suspicion among some Western powers and their regional allies that Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon, an accusation Tehran strongly denies.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who said last October that Yemen plans to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, has backed Iran's right to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful ends.
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