AMMAN — Jordanian energy officials have reached a final site for the Kingdom’s first nuclear reactor as the country moves ahead with its nuclear power programme.
The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) has arrived at a final preferred site for the country’s first nuclear reactor in the Mafraq Governorate, some 40km northeast of the capital, concluding months of study, said JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan.
According to Toukan, the commission forwarded their decision to the Prime Ministry for approval last Thursday expecting a green light “soon” with potential minor adjustments due to the “political sensitivities” surrounding the reactor.
“The Council of Ministers may decide that we should move the site slightly west or east depending on the political considerations, but we are confident that after careful considerations we have arrived at the final site,” Toukan told The Jordan Times.
Upon the Prime Ministry’s approval, energy officials will proceed with an environmental impact assessment to gauge the effects of the planned 1,000-megawatt (MW) reactor on the area — which is home to several farms and pastoral lands.
Atomic energy officials’ previous announcement of the relocation of the leading candidate site from the Port of Aqaba to Mafraq prompted a backlash from residents in the northern governorate, who led a series of protests urging officials to pull the plug on the nuclear programme.
In addition to health and environmental concerns, area residents point to safety concerns, claiming that the nearby Hallabat fault line is seismically active — an allegation JAEC has denied.
According to Mafraq residents, a several-month dialogue between energy officials and area residents has failed but the cause is still alive. Energy officials will face an uphill battle, an activist said.
“We still do not believe a nuclear reactor is a wise choice for Jordan and we have yet to be convinced otherwise,” said Fayez Madarmeh, head of Irhamouna, a coalition of Mafraq activists and residents opposed to the reactor’s construction.
According to Madarmeh, a delegation of Mafraq residents met with Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Rakan Majali last week in a last-ditch effort to urge authorities to reconsider the reactor location, a subject he warned has become an “explosive issue” in the northern region.
“If the government approves this reactor site, they will lose the support of the Mafraq region for any of its future projects or policies,” Madarmeh warned.
“We will not go quietly.”
Energy officials say they zeroed-in on the proposed location due to the strategic presence of the nearby Khirbet Al Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant, which, according to initial plans, is to supply the reactor with some 30 million cubic metres of water annually.
Opponents to the nuclear programme cast doubt over the feasibility of the scheme, pointing out that only one reactor in the world — Arizona’s Paolo Verde power station — currently relies on treated water for reactor cooling.
Meanwhile, Toukan announced that Jordan is moving forward with the technology selection process, set to select among three short-listed reactor vendors by the end of next month.
Jordan is currently vetting offers from Canadian AECL, Russia’s Atomstroy Export and a French-Japanese consortium comprising AREVA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the construction of a 1,000MW Generation III reactor by the end of the decade.
Amman has prioritised nuclear energy as key to solving Jordan’s emerging energy crisis which has deepened in recent weeks due to an attack that marked the 12th act of sabotage on the Egyptian gas pipeline that conveys the vital commodity to the Kingdom.