(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Jordan's top nuclear official on Wednesday stressed that authorities will not sign any deal for the country's first nuclear reactor without the prior approval of Parliament.
Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Chairman Khaled Toukan reiterated yesterday that Jordan's peaceful nuclear power programme is of immense potential value and will be established in accordance with the highest safety standards.
Toukan made the remarks during yesterday's Lower House session, in which he presented a detailed response to an inquiry raised by MP Mahmoud Kharabsheh (Balqa, 1st District).
In his inquiry, which he submitted previously to the House secretariat general, the deputy charged that the government made the decision to start a nuclear programme in the Kingdom without conducting a "real" feasibility study and environmental impact assessment.
Kharabsheh also said the projected nuclear reactor is projected to cost JD20 billion and will thus incur more debt for the state treasury, and that the country's strategic reserves of uranium are not as promising as the JAEC has said.
Indicating that JAEC officials provided him with information about the programme and the commission's staff, the deputy alleged that some employees are receiving salaries as high as JD10,000 and that Toukan appointed some of his friends to the JAEC.
In remarks mostly marked by scepticism over the nuclear programme, the MP also alleged that the French firm AREVA, which is carrying out uranium exploration activities in the Kingdom, is "bankrupt" and intends to make Jordan an "experimental field" for its "failing" Generation III nuclear reactor.
In response, Toukan said the cost of the nuclear power plant will be around JD5 billion, not JD20 billion as Kharabsheh charged, adding that Jordan has very large reserves of uranium of high enough quality to provide nuclear fuel not only to the Kingdom but to neighbouring countries as well.
In addition, the JAEC chairman reiterated that no company has been selected yet to build the nuclear plant and that, as a condition of the agreement, any firm chosen will be required to cover 50 per cent of the total cost of the projected programme.
"For the past four years, Jordan has spent only JD44 million on the nuclear programme, while JD45 million has been spent so far by foreign investors," he said.
Toukan added that AREVA is not broke, but rather is operating around 90 per cent of all nuclear reactors around the world.
Concerning appointments, he said the highest salary in the JAEC is JD4,000, paid to a Jordanian scientist who has published 120 internationally accredited research papers on nuclear energy, and dismissed the accusation that he appointed anyone on the basis of personal connections.
"At the end of the day, no agreements to set up a nuclear plant in the Kingdom will be signed unless thoroughly discussed and fully approved by Parliament," Toukan concluded.
Unconvinced with Toukan's response, Kharabsheh refused to withdraw his question, requesting again that the government provide him with all documents related to the programme.
In response to recent comments by Kharabsheh, AREVA announced that the Jordan-French Uranium Mining Company, a joint venture between AREVA and Jordan Energy Resources Inc., expects to confirm the presence of 20,000 tonnes of uranium in the central region, nearly double the 12,000 tonnes the firm identified late last year.
AREVA stressed that it is set to invest nearly eight billion euros over the next five years and expects to receive 10 orders to build new nuclear power plants, which the energy giant points to as a sign of the nuclear energy industry's health despite concerns raised by last year's Fukushima incident.
Meanwhile, a majority of deputies voted down a request to form an investigative committee into the nuclear programme, opting instead to refer the case to the House Energy and Mineral Resources Committee for examination.