The country has limited capacity to produce nuclear power at present. Legislation governing its development will be introduced in 2008 and a nuclear agency will be launched to regulate the sector, said Energy Minister Chakib Khelil at an international mining conference in Algiers on 2 December.

“There is no doubt we have uranium,” he said. “But we only have 29,000 tonnes of proven reserves, which is only enough to run two 1,000MW power stations for 60 years.

“We have to make an exploration effort to look for more reserves. The development of these reserves could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Algeria’s nuclear energy sector also needs an appropriate legal structure to grow, according to the minister.
“At the moment, we do not have a regulatory or judicial framework for nuclear energy and we need one,” he said. “We hope to introduce a nuclear law next year to restructure the sector.”

Khelil stressed that safety would be central to the creation of the nuclear agency. “We will create an agency that will deal with the research, industrial and regulatory aspects of nuclear power,” he said. “It will also deal will all aspects of safety and security.

“We have to address the safety issues of using radioactive materials, including how they are handled. We have to organise the sector, equip the laboratories and invest money.”

Gregory Schulte, US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has called on Algiers to sign an additional protocol to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

This would give the international agency access to nuclear plants to ensure that no undeclared activities are taking place.

Speaking on 27 November during a visit to Algiers, he also repeated an invitation for Algeria to join the US-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

“We hope that Algeria will join us and other countries around the world in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership,” he said. “We hope Algeria will join the majority of the world’s countries in signing the IAEA’s additional protocol.”

Algeria already has two small nuclear reactors at Draria and Ain Oussera. It signed the non-proliferation treaty in 1995 and has since signed nuclear co-operation agreements with Russia and the US.

This week, a nuclear co-operation agreement was signed with France during a visit to Algiers by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He arrived on 3 December as head of a delegation of French businesses to Algiers.

Khelil signed the declaration with Jean-Louis Borloo, the French Ecology, Sustainable Development & Planning Minister, to co-operate on the development of a nuclear energy programme.

The agreement was also signed by Faisal Abba, Secretary General of the Algerian Energy & Mining Ministry, and Bernard Cajoled, the French ambassador to Algiers.