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Replace nuclear with renewables

May 22,2019 - Last updated at May 22,2019

Head of the Lower House's Energy and Mineral Resources Committee Haytham Ziadin raised recently, and rightly so, the viability of the plan to build a nuclear plant to satisfy the energy needs of the country. Ziadin went as far as calling for ending altogether all plans to build such a plant, and called them simply as squandering of badly-needed funds.

The comments of the head of the Lower Houses' Energy and Mineral Resources Committee must be seen against the backdrop of an earlier ambitious plan to construct a huge nuclear plant, by signing first an agreement to do so with Russia’s Rosaton agency in 2015 for this purpose that would cost $10 billion at a time when the country is dry of funds and nearly broke! The defunct nuclear plant project would have generated only 2,000 Megawatts of electricity anyway. The cancelled deal was replaced by a less ambitious project to build smaller nuclear reactors.

In retrospect though, the idea to go nuclear in the country was marred with strong objections from several well-informed sources in the country, which raised the spectrum of its safety and the non-availability of sufficient amounts of water anywhere in the country for cooling purpose.

The economic feasibility of any such project was always on the minds of various shades of opinion on a national nuclear plant. When Aqaba was dropped as a site for this purpose due to strong objections from different circles, the sponsors of the nuclear plant project shifted their attention to other regions of the country, despite the fact that water resources are scant and the country can ill-afford depleting whatever is left of precious water on a dubious nuclear plant.

An increasing number of developed countries with a wide experience in nuclear energy have begun to phase out nuclear energy plants for safety reasons, among them Germany, so why would Jordan opt to go the other way?

When all is considered, the limited financial resources available to the country, in addition to rising safety hazards associated with nuclear plants, Ziadin and like-minded cautious people are right in objecting to the construction of even small nuclear reactors.

According to the Minister of Energy and Minerals Resources Hala Zawati, the country is now producing 11 per cent of our electricity by renewable energy sources and is projected to produce no less than 20 per cent of its energy needs by solar and wind sources of energy by 2021.

On balance, whatever benefits that nuclear plants may have for Jordan, they are outweighed by lack of financial resources, high safety risks associated with nuclear plants, shortage of water resources in all parts of the country and the lack of an appropriate geographic area for any such nuclear project.

Since renewable sources of energy are getting more promising in the country, and domestic gas production has risen, it is time to close the door on nuclear projects and rely more on other sources of energy.

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