Jordan wants to retain uranium enrichment right, official says

Jordan, which plans to build two nuclear power plants, has picked a Russian consortium as the preferred bidder to build them.

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Jordan wants to retain the right to enrich uranium from its domestic resources, says a senior Jordanian official.

The kingdom, which plans to build two nuclear power plants, has picked a Russian consortium as the preferred bidder to build them. Jordan estimates it has about 70,000 tonnes of uranium resources.

Kamal Araj, the vice chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), yesterday said the country’s desire to retain the right to enrich uranium had impeded the completion of a so-called 123 nuclear cooperation pact with the United States.

Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act requires the conclusion of a specific agreement for significant transfers of nuclear material, equipment, or components from the US to another nation.

“We signed it [a 123 agreement] a long time ago, but till now we have not finalised [it],” said Mr Araj. “There was the issue of this gold standard and enrichment processing and I think we will find a solution for that.”

Mr Araj said Jordan wanted to set up nuclear fuel fabrication facilities in the future when it becomes economical to do so.

“We wanted to retain the right for enrichment, although we are not going to exercise it in the future.”

Jordan has nuclear cooperation agreements with 12 countries, including Russia.

It has selected the consortium of Rosatom Corp, Russia’s state-run nuclear company and Atomstroyexport, a nuclear equipment and service export monopoly as the preferred bidder to build its nuclear plants.

Mr Araj said Jordan had selected a preferred bidder for negotiation in the next six to eight months to finalise the agreements.

“We will be negotiating the power purchase agreement, inter-governmental agreements, all the obligations of both parties [and] also the investments,” he said.

Mr Araj also said that Jordan would like to enrich its uranium resources abroad to fuel its two nuclear reactors. Each reactor would cost US$5 billion and have a capacity of 1,000 megawatts.

Jordan could send the uranium to a Rosatom vendor to enrich and fabricate the uranium, Mr Araj said.

Construction of the nuclear plants was expected to start in 2017, and the first reactor should be operational by 2022, he said.

Nuclear power would comprise 35 per cent of Jordan’s installed power capacity by 2022, he said.

Jordan is seeking funding for the first plant, which will be 51 per cent financed by the Amman government and the rest by the Russian consortium.

To finance its 51 per cent stake, the government plans to solicit funding over the next two years.