Jordan to push ahead with nuclear power plan, minister says
Sep 21, 2011, 20:48 GMT
Amman - Jordanian Minister of Energy Khalid Touqan indicated Wednesday that his government was going ahead with a fledging nuclear programme - saying it was necessary for the accomplishment of the country's strategic projects in water and energy.
'Water and energy represent two major challenges for Jordan which cannot be addressed without huge energy resources that will only be reachable through the exploitation of the cheap nuclear power,' Touqan said in an interview with the official Petra news agency.
He said that the nuclear energy would be Jordan's only option for operating water desalination projects, because the country's traditional water resources would meet only third of the country's needs by the year 2020.
A projected canal due to connect the Red Sea and the Dead Sea will need huge amounts of energy estimated at about 900 megawatts, he said.
The multi-billion-dollar project, involving Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians, provides for the desalination of 800 million cubic metres of water.
'The Jordanian nuclear programme is a strategic energy option for future that enables the country to produce safe and stable energy at cheap costs irrespective of world political fluctuations,' said Touqan, who also heads the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).
He said that the JAEC was considering bids from three short-listed giants for building a 1,000-Megawatt Generation III nuclear reactor by the end of the decade.
The vying groups were the Russian Atomstroy Export, Canadian AECL and a consortium comprising French firm AREVA and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
A decision is expected by December.
Jordan has so far concluded nuclear cooperation agreements with 12 countries, but negotiations with the United States seemed to hit snags with reported Israel pressure on Washington to stipulate that Jordan refrains from production of uranium locally as a pre-condition for signing a similar accord.
He defended the site tentatively chosen for building a nuclear reactor in the Mafraq area, 40 kilometres east of Amman.
Jordan, which possesses an estimated 65,000 tons of uranium ore, is expected to start uranium production in 2013, Touqan said.
Jordan's nuclear programme has come under increased scrutiny by local environmental activists with protests held recently calling on the government to cancel the project or shift it to another site.