Jordanian parliament votes to suspend nuclear power program

Lawmakers decide to halt program due to financial worries and amid rising anti-nuclear movement in the Jordan.

Jordanian lawmakers voted on Wednesday to suspend the country’s nuclear power program due to worries over financing – bringing to a halt a project prioritized by Amman as a solution to the country’s chronic energy woes.

Jordanian parliamentarians voted to suspend both the country’s first ever nuclear reactor and uranium-mining activities, pending the completion of economic feasibility studies in light of what they said was officials’ “misleading” claims over project financing.

Jordan's King Abdullah speaks in Amman, February 20, 2011.

Jordan's King Abdullah speaks in Amman - Photo by Reuters

Under the Jordanian constitution, the motion is legally binding.
The move comes in the wake of a parliamentary report quoting former officials and experts casting doubt over Amman’s estimate of having 140,000 tons of uranium in the country.

The report puts reserves at just 12,000 tons – and much of that of economically unfeasible quality.

The report also challenges the official 5-billion dollar construction cost estimate for the country’s first reactor – with lawmakers claiming that decommissioning and waste transport costs will push the reactor’s price tag past 15 billion dollars.

Lawmakers also voted to suspend the country’s mining agreement with French energy giant AREVA, which is currently completing uranium exploration in central Jordan.

The vote comes amid a rising anti-nuclear movement in Jordan, with environmentalists and activists calling into question the project’s potential burden on the country’s near-record 4-billion dollar budget deficit and the ability of Jordan – which is the fourth water-poorest country in the world – to cool the nuclear reactors.

Energy officials have highlighted the strategic importance of the program – which calls for the construction of up to four reactors over the next 20 years to transform Jordan from an energy importer to an electricity exporter – to secure the country’s energy independence.

Amman is currently entering parallel negotiations with France and Russia to build a 1,100 megawatt reactor by the end of the decade.

Jordan currently imports 98 per cent of its energy needs, with rising international oil prices pushing the national energy bill to a record 5.6 billion dollars.

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