Jordan eager for first nuclear power plant

AMMAN, JORDAN - Jordan's first nuclear plant is looming in sight as it inked a preliminary nuclear cooperation deal with Britain, the third one in a month with Western nuclear powers on pumping nuclear energy.

Under the latest deal, Britain and Jordan will jointly promote "the establishment of a reliable source of nuclear fuel for future civilian light water nuclear reactors" in the Arab kingdom, said Chairman of Jordan Atomic Energy Commission Khalid Touqan.

The deal with Britain came a day after a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Canada's Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and SNC-Lavalin International, one of the world's largest engineering and construction firms.

According to Touqan, the MoU with Canada aims to help Jordan assess the feasibility of the introduction of a Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) nuclear power program.

It includes engineering and economic studies on a possible Enhanced CANDU 6 reactor, along with assessment on infrastructure development, site selection, fuel fabrication facilities, technology transfer, manpower training and the potential use of Jordan's uranium resources in the program, Touqan added.

Jordan also reached a nuclear collaboration agreement with France in late May, under which France would provide assistance for the Arab country in mining and extracting nuclear material as well as training Jordanian nuclear personnel.

In exchange, French energy services company Areva was given the chance to extract the uranium deposits from Jordan's 1.2 billion tons of phosphate reserves and build a nuclear reactor.

News came out on June 16 that a feasibility study for the creation of Jordan's first uranium manufacturing facility is underway. The study is due to be completed in seven months.

According to Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC) Chairman and CEO Walid Kurdi, the study will identify the best technologies of uranium extraction from phosphoric acid, set the engineering designs of the facility and determine the total capital and operational cost.

Jordan also borrows expertise from the United States through an MoU signed last September, which says that the two sides will work together to develop specifications and requirements for an appropriate power reactor, including fuel service arrangements, personnel training, nuclear safety and energy technology.

In addition, the Arab kingdom pumps technical assistance from the European Union (EU) on establishing legislative and regulatory framework to promote highest standards of nuclear safety.

This is covered in a "Joint Declaration on Priorities for Energy Cooperation," which was inked at the end of last October on the sidelines of a conference on energy security in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Unlike its oil-rich neighbors, Jordan imports 95 percent of its energy needs and has an annual water deficit of more than 500 million cubic meters, official estimates showed.

Jordan's King Abdullah announced a civil nuclear energy program in January 2007, saying the country was seeking an alternative energy to generate electricity and desalinate seawater.

Under the strategy, a nuclear plant will be set up by 2015 and nuclear power is expected to make up 30 percent of its energy production by 2030.

Jordan's nuclear ambition has received support from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei promised during a regional tour in April 2007 that the UN nuclear watchdog was ready to help Jordan to benefit from nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, while Abdullah pledged that the kingdom "will seek to acquire nuclear energy in line with international standards and laws related to the use of nuclear energy."

It is estimated that Jordan can extract 80,000 tons of uranium from its uranic ores and that the country's phosphate reserves also contains some 100,000 tons of uranium, officials with Jordan's energy ministry revealed.


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