Jordan to buy French nuclear reactor

AMMAN, JORDAN - Energy-poor Jordan said it plans to buy a nuclear reactor from a French firm to help the tiny desert kingdom generate power.

"Jordan is in the process of signing an agreement with a French company to purchase a nuclear reactor," Prime Minister Nader Dahabi told a French parliamentary delegation.

"The reactor will provide Jordan with electricity and enriched uranium for peaceful use," Dahabi was quoted as saying by the state-run Petra news agency. The French firm will also provide training for the staff.

The prime minister did not elaborate.

His announcement comes ahead of a visit by King Abdullah II to France for talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy on bilateral cooperation and Middle East issues, according to the palace.

"The king's trip will be of special significance," said Dahabi.

Jordan and France signed a nuclear cooperation agreement in May.

Jordanian officials have said that French nuclear giant Areva could extract around 130,000 tonnes of uranium from Jordan's 1.2 billion tonnes of phosphate reserves and build a nuclear reactor.

Jordan, home to around six million people, has already reached nuclear cooperation deals with the United States and China, and hopes to approve similar pacts with Canada and South Korea.

With few natural resources to rely on, Jordan is seeking to find alternative energy sources, using nuclear power to generate electricity and desalinate water.

The country, which imports around 95 percent of its energy needs, aims to bring its first nuclear plant on line by 2015. Officials have said they hope nuclear power will supply 30 percent of energy production by 2030.

Jordan is the latest Sunni Arab country, including Egypt and pro-Western Gulf states, to announce plans for nuclear power programmes in the face of Shiite Iran's controversial atomic drive.


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