Despite ongoing protests from green campaigners, it seems that Jordan is now determined to go down the path of nuclear power. Citing poor energy independence and high energy costs (around 22% of GDP), the country has laid out plans to establish a 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor just 40 kilometres north of Amman the capital city.
However, a local branch of Greenpeace has been raising serious questions about these plans. One of which is the ability of the Russian company Atomstroy Export – which is one of the final three bidders currently being considered by the Jordanian government – to fulfill its commitments. The other being the poor location of the nuclear reactor so close to a water-poor, bustling metropolis.
Problematic Nuclear Industry
A diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks which dates back to 2009 registers official concern that Russian nuclear company Atomstroy Export (ASE) won’t be able to “fulfill its committments” to international nuclear energy contracts due to “the crunch on credit, insufficient machine-building infrastructure, and a paucity of trained specialists.” The cable by John Beyrle, US Ambassador to Russia also remarked that Russia’s ex-deputy minister for atomic energy, Bulat Nigmatulin declared any plans by ASE to seek new contracts “a fantasy.”
Greenpeace remarked in a public statement, “Since the problems faced by Atomstroy Export – lack of funding, sufficient infrastructure and skilled workers – are common problems in the nuclear industry, Greenpeace calls on Arab states to move away from the construction of nuclear reactors and towards renewable energy that are safer for people and environmentally friendly.”
Other bidders hoping to build Jordan’s nuclear reactor include Canada’s AECL and a French-Japanese consortium comprising of AREVA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The Jordanian government is expected to announce the winning bid in November 2011.
Criticism Over Location by Environmentalists & Experts
Another issues raised by Greenpeace is the proposed location of the nuclear reactor. According to a Greenpeace statement issued in September, Japanese experts who visited the site in the city of Mafraq criticized the location because of its proximity to the population and the lack of sufficient water to cool the reactors. It appears that the original prosposed site north of Aqaba was rejected due to high infrastructure costs and unsuitable topography.
Residents from Mafraq and environmentalists have got together to form ‘Irhamouna’ (Have Mercy On Us in Arabic) a coalition to campaign against the nuclear plant and the dangers of nuclear power. Over the summer they held a sit-in to protest the nuclear plans and particularly the threat it posed to their health and safety. Jordan hopes to generate electricity from nuclear power by 2019.
:: Image via Greenpeace Arabic.
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