Stop the sale
A US oil company is under fire for being accused of planning to bury radioactive waste in Marsa Matrouh. Reem Leila
Marsa Matrouh, Egypt's northern coast city, has been on the front pages for weeks. President Hosni Mubarak visited the coastal city to perform Eid prayers at one of its famed mosques. But the real news concerns Egypt's first nuclear plant to be built in the city of Al-Dabaa which is affiliated to the Marsa Matrouh governorate.
A petition has been submitted by Nasrallah Fadl and Ahmed Adam, members of the Marsa Matrouh local council, to Governor Ahmed Hussein to stop the sale of a plot of land to the US company Halliburton Energy Service Egypt Limited. Halliburton, the second largest oil-focussed services company, bought 16,800 square metres in eastern Marsa Matrouh to bury radioactive wastes according to the petition. Fadl said the company will store radioactive material at depths of 250 metres and 1,000 metres and 1,500 metres below ground.
According to Fadl, the company will dig three ditches to dump and bury radioactive waste. "The selling of the land took place without taking the People's Assembly's approval for the whole project. This plan will ruin the country's reserves of underground water located in the area," Fadl stated. According to Fadl, Halliburton's agenda includes storing radioactive materials which would represent a significant threat to people's lives and safety of the environment of Marsa Matrouh, especially that it is on the Mediterranean coast, pointing out that "this land was designated in the first place to build a tourist resort," he added.
The US company recently held talks with Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmi to expand the company's digging of petroleum and natural gas wells in the area. Halliburton will cooperate with other multi-national and Egyptian companies to develop the current petroleum and natural gas wells, in addition to discovering new ones.
Hussein told Al-Ahram Weekly the company will focus on its search for new wells in the Western Desert which in recent years has shown great potential for discoveries of petroleum and natural gas. "The company to be established by Halliburton aims at improving and developing human resources for the Middle East oil industry. The project is the first of its kind to offer training for technicians and engineers in the oil field," stated Hussein.
"Training and development of our employees have always been viewed to be the guarantee for future success." Halliburton's Regional Manager in Egypt Hisham Ismail denied all allegations regarding the company's intention to bury or dump any radioactive waste in Egyptian territories. The ditches, according to Ismail, which will be dug are experimental, to be used to train only the technicians on how to dump and bury radioactive wastes.
"But we are not going to bury or dump any toxic materials. This is nonsense," argued Ismail. "We will send our engineers and field staff to workshops, seminars and technical training forums to the US and other Halliburton technical centres around the world."
The company has established in Egypt one of the three biggest Technical Excellence Centres (TEC) in the world. According to Ismail, these centres are supporting Halliburton in the African and Middle East regions as well as other parts of the world with specialised instructors to provide them with training and field experience. "The training programme constitutes three phases with a total of approximately 30 weeks after which the graduate will be specialised in one of Halliburton's products and/or service," revealed Ismail.
Health Ministry spokesman Abdel-Rahman Shahin denied all reports claiming there is radioactive waste in the site where Halliburton intends to build its company near Marsa Matrouh. Shahin said a committee of three experts in the field inspected the site and found that the company is located in an unpopulated and remote desert area. "In addition, the company has a licence for establishing such kinds of ditches and inspection has proved the company's adherence to all safety criteria and showed that there is no radiation leakage," Shahin stated.
"The company did not violate any environmental law in the country. The company is adhering to Law 59/1960 and all ministerial decrees issued in this regard. All our buildings are environment-friendly and do not present any danger to either the environment or human health. The city's eco-system will be preserved, so there is no need to worry," added Ismail.