Dismissal of Egyptian scientist from Dabaa nuclear project met with disapproval

Zeinab El-Gundy , Thursday 27 Aug 2015

Mounir Megahed, the former head of Egypt's nuclear plants authority and a one-time anti-Mubarak activist, was excluded from the Dabaa nuclear plant project for 'security reasons'

Mounir Megahed
File Photo: nuclear scientist and political activist Mounir Megahed (Photo: Ahram Arabic news website)

Several political parties and public figures have slammed the decision by Egypt's Nuclear Power Plants Authority (NPPA) not to renew the contract of nuclear scientist and political activist Mounir Megahed as an advisor in the Dabaa nuclear plant project after an unnamed "security apparatus" advised the NPPA of "security concerns."

Megahed, formerly head of the NPPA and adviser to the Dabaa project, learned in July that his contract with the authority had expired and that he had been dismissed from the project due to "security concerns."

"Initially, the Nuclear Power Plants Authority sent me a letter to renew my contract but then the procedures of finalising the extension were halted. I went to the head of the authority on 14 July to ask him for the reason and he told me that an unnamed security apparatus wanted to exclude me from the Dabaa project due to security concerns," Megahed told Ahram Online. 

"I tried to find out what that security apparatus was or what its security concerns were but I failed do do so, and so I went to the Minister of Electricity on 26 July telling him what had happened, and he told me that he would investigate the matter, but nothing happened," Megahed said.

The following day, Megahed said he sent an email to the Egyptian presidency to let the president to "know the truth about what happened to him."

"A month passed and I received no answer so I decided to go public with the matter. After all this is about my reputation," Megahed said to Ahram Online.

On Monday, Megahed sent an open letter via his official Facebook account to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, requesting to find out the name of "the security apparatus" behind his exclusion.

He further called for an independent investigation which would look into the accusations claimed by the unnamed apparatus against him that led to his exclusion, and determine if the Dabaa nuclear plant project is being infiltrated by what he called "land mafia" who want to halt the project.

Various political parties and public figures released a statement on Thursday in solidarity with Megahed, and demanding answers.

"Dr. Monir Megahed is a respectable scientist and a patriot who stood to defend the land of Dabaa nuclear plant project; it is unacceptable that he be excluded in this shameful way; that has never happened before, even in the worst eras of repression," read the statement.

The staement was signed by former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabahi and Khaled Ali, ex-MP Amr Hamzawy, human rights lawyer Ragia Omran, and writer Ekram Youssef.

The Socialist Popular Alliance, the Egyptian Current Party, and El-Karama Party were among the parties and movements that declared their solidarity with Megahed.

In 2009, when the plans to build a nuclear plant in Dabaa were first announced by the now-defunct National Democratic Party, some real estate developers who operate resort businesses on the north coast declared their opposition to the idea of building a nuclear plant close to seaside resorts. 

The planned plant would be located at an existing nuclear site in Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast, west of the port city Alexandria.

Megahed, for his part, has been a strong advocate of building Egypt's first nuclear plant in that location.

The veteran political activist, who has been involved in politics since the 1970s, was one of the founders of the National Association for Change, a pro-democracy umbrella group formed in 2010 to coordinate opposition against then-president Hosni Mubarak.

The Dabaa nuclear plant project was revived in 2013 under then-interim president Adly Mansour.

On Wednesday, Egypt announced that it was still mulling offers from Russia and other countries to build the power-generating nuclear plant on the Mediterranean coast.

The nuclear plant will be used to generate power amid a serious electricity shortage that has caused frequent blackouts in recent years.

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