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.