Jordan has supported a parliamentary committee recommendation to suspend Jordan’s projected nuclear programme
It’s certainly been a busy week for Khaled Toukan who is commissioner of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission. First, a parliamentary committee releases a report which states that he misled the public about the feasibility of uranium mining in Jordan and that the Commission was “hiding facts” about the cost of a nuclear reactor. Then a recording alleged to be of Toukan emerges in which he calls those against the nuclear programme “donkeys and garbage men.” Following these two events, a protest was held calling for his resignation and MPs are now supporting a parliamentary recommendation to suspend the programme citing the hazardous consequences of nuclear.
Although there has been a steady campaign against Jordan’s nuclear power ambitions since early 2011 (which we have covered extensively), things have taken a rather dramatic turn in the last week or so. A parliamentary report issued last week raised questions about the openness and transparency of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) which is leading Jordan’s nuclear plans.
In the Jordan Times, it was reported that in its answer to the parliamentary panel, the JAEC said that a 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor will cost $5 billion. But the nuclear agency provided no information on the costs of other aspects of the project, such as the water cooling, the electricity to operate the project, nuclear waste storage and plant decommissioning.
In a hearing in January, MP Mahmoud Kharabsheh (Balqa, 1st District) claimed that the additional costs will raise the total price tag of the project to JD20 billion – a figure Toukan disputed. “What the report is referring to is the cost of a desalination plant and an electricity grid upgrade, which are unrelated to the nuclear programme,” Toukan said to the Jordan Times.
Energy officials have singled out nuclear power as key to weaning the country off energy imports, which cost some 25 per cent of gross domestic product. However, protestors have insisted that more effort and investment be put into exploring safer and more sustainable forms of energy creation. This call was supported by various MPs who insisted that the “hazardous and costly” nuclear programme be suspended and replaced with environment-friendly energy-generating projects such as solar and wind power.
Despite this vote of no confidence, Toukan said the motion will not impact ongoing uranium exploration efforts and that the nuclear programme will go ahead as planned. He added that an economic feasibility study, due to be completed in August, will be the deciding factor in the uranium mine’s construction.
Jamal Gammo, head of the Lower House Energy Committee told the Jordan Times that the motion did send a clear message that Jordanians are “not convinced” with the feasibility or strategic value of the mega-project. “There are still doubts over whether this programme is in the interests of Jordan or in the interests of a few individuals or companies,” Gammo said. “This is why we need to stop and make sure we have our facts straight before we move forward.”
: Image of previous nuclear protest via Hamza Omari/ Greenpeace Jordan.
For more on Jordan’s nuclear plans see: