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House decides probe into nuclear file after lawmaker’s allegations

By Raed Omari - Mar 22,2015 - Last updated at Mar 22,2015

AMMAN — The Lower House on Sunday referred Jordan's projected nuclear programme to an already-formed investigation committee examining energy-related cases.

The controversy over the country's nuclear programme began when MP Mahmoud Kharabsheh sent around 50 queries to the government.

 Unconvinced by the government's replies, the veteran lawmaker requested an inquiry into the issue, a right MPs have by virtue of the House’s by-laws.

Last Tuesday's House session saw a heated discussion between Kharabsheh and Jordan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman (JAEC) Khaled Toukan over the latter’s answers to a query by the MP about the envisioned nuclear programme.

Kharabsheh (Balqa, 1st District) said the replies he received from the JAEC to his query on the country’s projected nuclear programme were “the wrong answers”, claiming that the “unneeded” project will “deplete” public money.

Kharabsheh also said Jordan is financially and technically unable to move ahead with the nuclear programme, citing the country’s economic woes and its limited water resources.

He added that the 16th Parliament, of which Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour was a member, had recommended that the nuclear programme be frozen, claiming that Toukan has “concealed” information in a report by French firm AREVA which revealed that the Kingdom’s uranium reserves are “commercially unviable”.

In response, Toukan said that building a nuclear reactor requires in-depth studies, and several international companies in the field have been consulted and have conducted scientific studies on the country’s nuclear project.

He added that 25 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have visited Jordan and released several reports on the selected sites for the nuclear projects, insisting that Jordan’s uranium reserves are “promising and commercially viable”.

Jordan’s nuclear programme entails building two nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts (MW) and at a total cost of $10 billion.

The country, which annually imports 97 per cent of its energy needs at a total cost of 20 per cent of the GDP, has become the third Arab state to pursue peaceful nuclear energy, with the United Arab Emirates set to build four reactors with a combined 5,600MW capacity by 2020, and Egypt reaffirming in 2013 its plans to establish a 1,000MW reactor by the end of the decade.

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