The Egyptian Electricity Holding Company says an international tender for the consultancy work on the plants could be issued before the end of the year.

The selected consultant will work with the government to find suitable sites for the plants, and to prepare their specifications. Several consultants are eager to be involved in the study, with Australia’s WorleyParsons and the UK’s Arup already expressing an interest in bidding.

Preliminary studies are being carried out by the government. One of the locations under evaluation is El-Dabaa on the coast west of Alexandria. El-Dabaa was selected as the site for Egypt’s first nuclear power plant in 1983, but the government aborted the project in 1987 following the Chernobyl disaster. The original studies were carried out by Germany’s Lahmeyer.

However, El-Dabaa’s potential for agricultural and as a tourist hub could mean that a different site is chosen for the first plant. The Electricity & Energy Ministry is in talks with the tourism and agriculture ministries to resolve the issue.

In October, President Hosni Mubarak said Egypt would build several nuclear power plants. The news came a year after Mubarak’s son, Gamal, proposed the development of a nuclear power programme. The US supports the plans.