Jordan’s First Nuclear Reactor: No-Go without Parliamentary Pre-approval

jordan nuclear
Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Chairman Khaled Toukan champions a peaceful nuclear power program, despite opposition from environmentalists and Parliamentary MPs.The Chairman spoke earlier this month in a Lower House session, in reply to MP Mahmoud Kharabsheh’s claim that kick-off of a national nuclear program excluded proper assessment of feasibility and environmental impacts. MP Kharabsheh, a nuclear skeptic, says the $21.2 million project cost stresses state coffers and that Jordan’s uranium reserves fall short of JAEC calculations.

He alleges that the preferred builder is “bankrupt”:  energy conglomerate AREVA suspended projects in France, Africa and the USA last December after revenues dropped about $2 billion, citing knock-on impacts caused by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Toukan says the plant will cost one third of Kharabsheh’s prediction, adding that uranium reserves have capacity to fuel this project and also be exported for sale to neighboring countries.  He notes that the plant developer will be required to cover half of the total program cost.

“At the end of the day, no agreements to set up a nuclear plant in the Kingdom will be signed unless thoroughly discussed and fully approved by Parliament,” concluded Toukan.  Formerly Minister of Energy, Chairman Toukan holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Who is looking at the social side of nuclear?

Nuclear economics are compelling: steep startup costs are offset by long-term and abundant supply of low cost fuel.  Nuclear production would strengthen Jordan’s energy self-reliance and security, and insulate the Kingdom from fossil fuel price fluctuations.  Technical debate continues over resources (how much uranium is locally available? where’s the water supply?),  but political and environmental arguments are largely ignored.

Lax regulation and enforcement makes for jittery confidence in public health and safety.  Absent robust impact assessment, how will tribal protests  be quelled if a governate is unhappy being selected as the project site, as a transportation conduit, or as the dumping ground for resulting waste?

Will high-paying jobs generated by the new industry be outsourced to foreign expertise?  The pro-nuclear side might quiet opposition by producing environmental information.

Lay their due-diligence cards on the table: let the facts run their course.

Where is a Jordan Renewable Energy Commission?

Lucrative cost-shared energy development is not restricted to the nuclear industry: large-scale wind, solar and geothermal facilities are in play throughout Jordan.

Exploiting renewable opportunities would hit targets broader than energy production and environmental stewardship.  Specialty green job creation would significantly underpin Kingdom economic development.  Establish a national Commission or Ministry fully dedicated to exploration and development of Jordanian renewables.  Link in disparate bodies like the National Energy Research Center, the Ministry of Energy and vox populi such as Jordan Green Building Council and Jordanian enviro-activist groups for a comprehensive dialogue as policies are formed.

Inclusion incites positive debate, understanding of the issues and fuller popular support.

Back in Parliament, the Jordan Times reported a majority of deputies voted down a request to form an investigative committee into the nuclear program, opting to refer the case to the House Energy and Mineral Resources Committee for future examination.

 

MP Kharabsheh refused to withdraw his inquiry and repeated a request for all program due-diligence documents.

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6 thoughts on “Jordan’s First Nuclear Reactor: No-Go without Parliamentary Pre-approval”

  1. Arguments are compelling on both sides of the nuclear fence: but they distract from the Energy Elephant in our global living room: which is that we must embrace smarter ways of living and reduce our insatiable demand for more power.

    No question that growth in developing nations will require increased energy production, and solutions need be identified that absolutely protect people and the environment. But looking to expand production without exhausting conservation puts me in mind of a little kid asking for dessert before finishing their veggies.

  2. Bahjat Tabbara says:

    ===================================
    According to a 2011 DOE report, system levelized cost (capital+fuel+maintenance) for advanced nuclear is already higher than wind and you don’t have to worry about where to bury wind for thousands of years. Wind might not be the best solution for Jordan but solar almost certainly is.
    ===================================

    I am not certain who said that, the Leveliseed Cost should factor numerous issues. For example, FOAK reactors have much, much more. Moreover, if you are referring to this,

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/Levelized_energy_cost_chart_1%2C_2011_DOE_report.gif

    It fails on 5-scores:

    1. Factor Capacity is over 90% for non-US reactors.

    2. The BWR/ABWR and ESBWR reactors have higher operating costs than PWRs, which are the global norm. In the US a combination of PWR and BWR are used.

    3. US reactors (even the most modern designs) are not competitive with their competitors. Indeed, the only reason the US sold its AP1000 to China was because it was a 100% technology transfer. Chinese disatisfaction is expressed in that they intend to fund R&D of larger, superior derivatives.

    4. It does not take into account FOAK (First Of A Kind) costs, as one needs to produce several before economics of scale (in construction and operation) can be achieved.

    5. Jordan is opting for superior reactors to those in service in the US.

    ============================================
    Photovoltaic was somewhat more expensive when the DOE report was published, but it won’t be for long. Photovoltaic prices per megawatt dropped 60% in the in the 4 years between 2008 and 2011. What has happened to the price of PWR Nuclear power during this time? Post Fukushima, I would imagine both the insurance costs and the safety costs have gone up.
    ============================================

    I disagree on all of the above. To start w/Solar PV is not actually getting cheaper, & the costs of even purchasing the land and space needed is simply too much. CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) has the best development potential, but still need years of development.

    ============================================
    The price of silicon-based photovoltaic panels stagnated for decades while the price of silicon-based computer chips plummeted. Don’t expect this to continue for long. Even if utilities can’t envisage a profitable solar power plant, their customers will soon be able to produce electricity for less than the utility rate. Photovoltaic already beats utility rates in parts of the U.S. where electricity is relatively cheap and skies are relatively cloudy. There are two other significant parallels between the PC revolution and the future of photovoltaics. The first is that like coal and nuclear utilities, pre-1975 computers were centralized behemoths. Computer Pioneer Thomas Watson famously said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” and Ken Olson, founder of the now defunct DEC computer company said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” I don’t want a nuclear power plant in my house and I certainly don’t want a coal plant. But solar…

    The other parallel with computer technology is that photovoltaic panels are now being mass produced in China.
    ===================================

    Solar PV is simply not feasible and is technically too challenging to put on a grid. It is useful for micro-applications, but lacks the potential for macro-usage.

    ===================================
    There may be parts of the world where conventional PWR and BWR reactors still make sense. But they should be built to survive 100 year floods and earthquakes. Jordan is one of those places where conventional fission is unlikely to make economic sense even five years in the future. But the sad truth is that what seems the easiest path today is seldom the path which will convey wisdom to our grandchildren.
    ===================================

    I have to disagree w/that statement because Jordan’s capacity for CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) and Wind have not been exploited; but even if they were, they would not solve the energy deficit. Moreover, it does not consider the fact that while Solar PV is cheap (especially CPV) is relatively competitive to highly priced oil and gas, its space requirements results in diseconomies of scale.

    To make matters worse, their factor capacities (availability) are only 30-35% versus 90-95% for nuclear, and over 99% for CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) alas, CSP’s main problem is very high operating costs as the technology is not mature enough.

  3. Brian Nitz says:

    According to a 2011 DOE report, system levelized cost (capital+fuel+maintenance) for advanced nuclear is already higher than wind and you don’t have to worry about where to bury wind for thousands of years. Wind might not be the best solution for Jordan but solar almost certainly is.

    Photovoltaic was somewhat more expensive when the DOE report was published, but it won’t be for long. Photovoltaic prices per megawatt dropped 60% in the in the 4 years between 2008 and 2011. What has happened to the price of PWR Nuclear power during this time? Post Fukushima, I would imagine both the insurance costs and the safety costs have gone up.

    The price of silicon-based photovoltaic panels stagnated for decades while the price of silicon-based computer chips plummeted. Don’t expect this to continue for long. Even if utilities can’t envisage a profitable solar power plant, their customers will soon be able to produce electricity for less than the utility rate. Photovoltaic already beats utility rates in parts of the U.S. where electricity is relatively cheap and skies are relatively cloudy. There are two other significant parallels between the PC revolution and the future of photovoltaics. The first is that like coal and nuclear utilities, pre-1975 computers were centralized behemoths. Computer Pioneer Thomas Watson famously said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” and Ken Olson, founder of the now defunct DEC computer company said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” I don’t want a nuclear power plant in my house and I certainly don’t want a coal plant. But solar…

    The other parallel with computer technology is that photovoltaic panels are now being mass produced in China.

    There may be parts of the world where conventional PWR and BWR reactors still make sense. But they should be built to survive 100 year floods and earthquakes. Jordan is one of those places where conventional fission is unlikely to make economic sense even five years in the future. But the sad truth is that what seems the easiest path today is seldom the path which will convey wisdom to our grandchildren.

  4. Bahjat Tabbara says:

    Saying that a nuclear reactor costs $21 Billion fails to consider many factors. You can say, “I bought $21 of apples” but the natural question is, ‘how many kilogrammes of apples did you receive?”

    Before I clarify these numbers, let me remind you ladies and gentlemen that MP Kharabsheh is one who supports honour killings and his opinion of women is well known. Just ask journalist Rana Husseini.

    On the subject itself, The UAE is purchasing 5400 MW capacity at $20 Billion, and another $20 Billion to ensure operation of these reactors within a 60-year period.

    Is Kharabsheh seriously implying that Jordan is purchasing 1000 MW for $21 Billion? The reality is, it would be a world record, for reactor costs are measured by kW (not only in absolute terms) and then you must factor FOAK (First Of A Kind) costs, if the reactor is the first of its series. For example, the EPR in Finland (1600 MW) will cost some $7600 per kW (somewhat exagurated by the value of the Euro), or soem $12 Billion. By contrast, Bulgaria’s latest reactors from Russia are budgeted at some $5000 per kW, or $10 Billion; including long term maintenance.

    In the end, the UAE’s deal w/S.Korea is valued at some $3650 per kW, partly helped by the exchange rate of the Won (ever wondered why Korean products sometimes appear cheap?)

    Also, let us clarify the Fukushima disaster and success.

    There are two Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants only 15km from each other. The Fukushima I plant housed elderly reactors without full protection. They were old fashioned BWRs, whereas Fukushima II were all new generation BWRs (BWR-3/4) with Mk.2 containment structures. These not only withstood the earthquake but also the tsunami.

    The Fukushima I nuclear power-plant had several BWR-1/2 systems, and none had the Mk.2 containment, which made it vulnerable. In short, even the less than state-of-the-art Fukushima II NPP survived with flying colours; only Unit 1 (using the Mk.1 containment) experienced a Level 3 situation, which was quickly resolved.

    Yet Jordan is looking at G3/G3+ PWRs; which are intrinsically safer than BWR systems. BWRs are cheaper and faster to construct, at the penalty of higher operating costs and water consumption; plus being somewhat less stable in operation. We on the other hand are looking at the finest PWRs on the planet.

  5. Laurie Balbo says:

    Linda:

    An important typo on my part! Yes, the word is Billion – not million.

    Project champion Dr. Toukan asserts the price is under $6Bil (rather than the $21.2 Bil price tag that the opposition claims)- in either case, hardly small change.

    It would be interesting to see the wider economics of the Fukushima disaster – would be sobering for both sides of the debate.

    Apologies for the typo, and thanks for the great comments – Laurie

  6. Linda Massimo says:

    You’d be hard-pressed to ever build a nuclear power plant for 21.2 million! Try 21.2 billion which is a more accurate estimate. (See Mark Cooper’s studies). And that is without even considering all subsidies, especially those that allow nuclear plants to be built without insurance coverage and without full guarantees by the company that they will pay the full costs of a nuclear disaster (such as happened in Japan). No insurance company will give insurance coverage for nuclear power plants because it is too high of a risk. No company would ever build a nuclear power plant if the company had to guarantee it would pay full costs for an accident. Taxpayers will pay, so if you added that cost to the cost of a nuclear power plant it would be even higher. And that is without even figuring in the costs of dealing with and maintaining the safety of nuclear wastes for thousands of years.

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