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Nuclear project still in development phase; no final decisions taken yet — Momani

By Khetam Malkawi - Feb 15,2014 - Last updated at Feb 15,2014

AMMAN — The government is still conducting all the studies needed to implement the nuclear project, which is expected to be operational by 2021, a government official said on Saturday.

Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani said the government is still working with its Russian partner to finalise all studies related to selecting the site for the nuclear power plant.

“The project is still in the development phase… the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission [JAEC] is working with the Russian side to finalise the detailed ‘Site Characterisation Study’, environmental impact assessment and the financial plan,” Momani said in an interview via e-mail, adding that if the project proves feasible, the government will sign all related project agreements.

Although the site has yet not been agreed upon, according to the government, the tentative choice is in the Qusayr Amra region east of Amman.

When announcing the decision in October last year, JAEC listed the site’s distance from major urban centres and proximity to the Khirbet Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant among its advantages.

The commission selected Russian state-owned firm Rosatom as the preferred vendor to construct twin 1,000-megawatt (MW) reactors by 2021.

Activists and local residents claim that the reactors threaten the underground aquifers in Azraq, some 15 kilometres from the proposed site.

Momani said JAEC — with the help of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts — has drafted and reviewed a national policy for the safe management of nuclear waste, and it has been submitted to the board of commissioners for approval.

“This policy serves as a national commitment to address the management of nuclear waste for the planned project… We are committed to applying these policies to protect human health and the environment… without imposing an undue burden upon the next generations,” the spokesperson said, without elaborating on the details of the policies.

JAEC has also conducted a feasibility study of the Russian technology, Momani said, adding that the study showed the project will “reduce” the imported fossil fuel bill, stabilise electricity prices and constitute a competitive energy source.

He added that the project will support the state budget by reducing public debt, increasing government revenues, creating high calibre jobs and supporting the development of local industries.

The proposed nuclear power plant is expected to cover about 20 per cent to 30 per cent of Jordan’s electricity needs during the first years of operation.

The value of the Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) Contract for constructing the two 1,000MW power plants will be $10 billion, according to Momani.

Jordan will cover 50.1 per cent of the EPC contract, While Rosatom will cover 49.9 per cent as investor and operator of the nuclear plants.

“An additional owner’s cost of $1.1 billion will be borne by Jordan,” Momani noted, adding that this will cover infrastructure outside the nuclear plants fence like the water treatment plant, the water cooling piping system, and roads and highways to the nuclear plants’ construction site.

As for the uranium reserves in central Jordan needed for the project, the spokesperson noted that the government terminated the Jordan French Uranium Mining Company’s rights to explore and mine uranium after the technical audit showed that radiometric measurements adopted by the company to estimate uranium resources had “harshly underestimated high grade uranium resources”.

Currently, “the Jordanian Uranium Mining Company [JUMCO] is carrying out extensive trenching work and chemical analysis of uranium in [JAEC] laboratories to estimate uranium surficial resources, and a new estimate of deeper uranium resources is also under [way],” Momani said.

JUMCO has finished trenching work on one-third of the total zone in the central region and “will announce its findings on estimated uranium resources for the areas it has covered… by the middle of this year”.

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