Jordan to sign $10-bn nuclear deal with Russia

24 Mar 2015


Energy deficient Middle East nation Jordan is set to sign a $10-billion deal with Russia for building the country's first nuclear power plant, according to Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) chairman Khaled Toukan.

The agreement which could be signed before the end of this month will represent the legal and political framework between the two countries and highlight their support of setting up two nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts (MW).

Toukan said that under the agreement Jordan will have the option to return nuclear waste to Russia which made the Russian offer attractive compared to its competitors.

The proposed reactors will have a life span of 60 years.

Russia will supply enriched fuel for the nuclear reactors initially for a period of 10 years after which Jordan has the option to choose a supplier of its choice.

Jordan has low-cost uranium resources of 140,000 t and another 59,000 t in phosphate deposits, which the government says the country plans to mine. A feasibility study on recovering uranium as a by-product of phosphate production is under way.

The agreement, when signed, will be put up to the lower house of the Jordanian parliament for approval.

The chairman said that Jordan is currently in talks with several regional and international investors who showed interest in financing the project and partnering with Jordan. "I expect that we will hear positive news in this respect at the end of this year," he said.

Jordan, which has a population of 6.7 million, imports 97-per cent of its energy requirement from neighbouring countries incurring a heavy financial burden amounting to a fifth of its gross domestic product for energy purchase.

The demand for electricity has been growing rapidly in recent years, which is expected to more than double to 5,770 MW by 2020.

The government which plans to have a third-of its new energy plants to be nuclear by 2030, had announced a tender for the construction of the first nuclear power plant in early 2011 and in October 2013 declared Russia's state-owned Rosatom a ''preferred bidder.''

Under the deal between Rosatom Overseas and JAEC, a joint venture company will be formed in which the Jordanian government will own a controlling 51-per cent stake while the Russian company will hold the remaining 49 per cent.

Russia, whose economy is struggling with plunging oil prices and western sanctions due to its involvement in Ukraine, is looking for means to extend its reach in other areas.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev had commented that the project will have "a positive impact on the development of the Russian nuclear industry and will provide long-term work for the nuclear industry of the country."

Jordan has become the third Arab nation planning to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt.

The UAE envisages building four nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 5,600 MW by 2020, while Egypt plans to establish a 1,000 MW-reactor by the end of the decade.

Saudi Arabia is also in talks with South Korea to build small and medium-size nuclear reactors in the country.

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