Since 2009, when Jordan first announced its nuclear ambitions, the country has been through a parliamentary review of nuclear power, accusations of slander by the head of the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission and dozens of protests stating that the costs – both financial and environmental – of nuclear power has not been sufficiently assessed. There is now a new plot twist in the Jordanian nuclear ambition saga. King Abdullah has accused Israel of disrupting Jordan’s nuclear programme. Speaking to Ynet News, he remarked: “When we started going down the road of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, we approached some highly responsible countries to work with us. And pretty soon we realized that Israel was putting pressure on those countries to disrupt any cooperation with us.”
This statement is in my view hugely damaging to Jordan’s anti-nuclear movement. Firstly because support for nuclear power will no doubt be given a boost in retaliation to the news that Israel has been interfering. Secondly, because those trying to stop nuclear could now be seen as siding with a national enemy.
It’s a really tricky situation and one which the environmental movement is trying to downplay. I emailed a campaigner at Greenpeace Jordan, which has been actively campaigning against the nuclear plans for two years now, who said that this news won’t have any impact. “I think that the people who are concerned about the health and environmental consequences of the plant won’t stop the Anti-Nuclear campaign… We have the green alternative and even Japan announced that they will phase out the nuclear plant that they have.” They added, “I won’t lose hope.
In 2009, it was announced that the country would begin construction of a nuclear plant in 2011 but one year later and there is nothing. Nuclear plants are notoriously difficult to plan but the delay could be one reason that King Abdullah II has chosen to highlight Israeli opposition to his nuclear ambitions now. At a time when support for nuclear is low, equating anti-nuclear sentiment with Israel does seem one cynical way to garner support for nuclear power.
Back in June 2012, the nuclear programme was declared ‘hazardous and costly’ by a Jordanian parliamentary committee. A petition signed by hundreds of representatives of professional organisations, political parties and parliamentarians was also handed into the South Korean embassy in Amman asking them to halt work. A South Korean business consortium is tasked with building the nuclear reactor.
For more Jordan’s Nuclear Plans see: