Amid the ongoing nuclear power plant crisis in Japan, specialists in Jordan are questioning their government's pursuit of atomic energy, Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday (see GSN, Sept. 29, 2010).
Government Environment Ministry adviser Rauf Dabbas said Jordan's program "lacks environmental assessment and feasibility studies."
"We do not know its actual cost. We do not know what precautions should be taken to prevent a nuclear catastrophe in the country," he said.
The energy-starved Arab nation possess large reserves of uranium and has expressed ambitions of developing full nuclear fuel cycle capabilities which include uranium enrichment -- a process that can generate weapon-usable material (see GSN, June 24, 2010). Amman wants the country's first atomic energy reactor operational no later than 2019.
The continuing release of radiation from the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was produced by reactor cooling systems that were by disabled following the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the island nation on March 11 (see related GSN story, today).
"Our entire region is exposed to earthquakes. We are a small country and any nuclear leak will remain in Jordan for 5,000 years," Dabbas said.
Former Jordanian Environment Minister Khalid Irani said "there are a lot of questions about Jordan's nuclear plans."
"These questions need to be answered first before supporting or fighting the project," he said. "We need to know if the plans are feasible and we need to study their environmental impact, as well as the location of the plant, how to deal with nuclear waste and the funding."
The Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission on Tuesday said it was prepared to hold a national vote on whether to move forward with nuclear development plans. The commission also accused atomic opponents of seeking to "exploit" the situation in Japan.
A number of Middle Eastern nations, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have announced plans to develop atomic energy capabilities. Some nonproliferation experts are concerned the spread of atomic technology in the region could create opportunities for terrorists to acquire nuclear materials or for state governments to covertly launch nuclear weapon programs as a response to Iran's increasingly advanced nuclear and missile capabilities (Agence France-Presse/Daily Nation, April 14).