Nuclear JordanAugust 20, 2008
Three years ago, I wrote an article that was published in Al Rai (available here in Arabic), where I argued for the introduction of nuclear power to Jordan. Since then, many things have happened, with the country finally taking the strategic decision to go this route. The numbers in the original article are now dated, and replacing them with newer ones makes the argument even more compelling.
This article highlights how implementation is going. People involved in the parliament and in the Jordan Nuclear Energy Commission are aiming to have the first reactor set up and operating in 2015 or 2016, depending on who in the article is quoted. The article reveals that the reactor will be in Aqaba, which is not surprising given the need for water to operate the plant. My guess that it will be in Wadi Araba, where there is enough land and where the proposed Red Sea Dead Sea canal will run, if implemented.
The article also suggests that uranium mines will be opened in central Jordan, ostensibly to run the reactors and for export. A nuclear engineering programme has been established at the Jordan University of Science and Technology for the specific purpose of providing the needed manpower for the project. Some questions remain, however.
Nobody seems to want to put a number on the electrical generating capacity of the reactor (s) that will be built. Presumably, we want to keep our options open.
As for the fuel, most reactor designs require enriched uranium to operate. Nobody has yet mentioned whether we are planning to enrich uranium, whether there will be a break in the fuel cycle (and we will import enriched uranium) or if we are planning to build pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) that do not require uranium enrichment. Importing enriched uranium means that uranium mining is a stand-alone project that is irrelevant to the nuclear programme.
Only Canada sells PHWR reactors known as CANDU reactors. There might be a political problem in eliminating other designs sold by our friends in the US, France, Russia or China. Moreover, heavy water reactors can be used to produce plutonium, which might prompt concerns over nuclear proliferation. While light water reactors require uranium enrichment, the process of producing weapons grade uranium is cumbersome and easier to monitor.
Another question is nuclear waste. Until now, there has been no mention of how the various grades of nuclear waste will be dealt with. While this is an issue that can be dealt with, it is important that discussions about it start soon. Perhaps the delay has to do with the type of reactor design that will be chosen; as PHWR produce more waste that is lower in grade. Anyway, as information becomes available I will let you know.