(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Energy officials have expanded their search for a reactor site in Mafraq amidst ongoing resistance from residents of the northern city.
The search for a potential site for the country's first nuclear reactor in Mafraq has expanded by a 40 kilometre radius in line with a Cabinet decision, according to the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).
Officials are searching for a site near the Khirbet Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant, which, according to current plans, is to serve as the main water source to cool the 1,000 megawatt reactor.
"We are expanding our search for a preferred site near Khirbet Samra in line with International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines," JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan told The Jordan Times.
According to a source close to the proceedings, the government directed the JAEC to find an alternative to the initially selected site, Balaama, near Mafraq, after coming under political pressure from tribal leaders and prominent local residents.
The announcement of the transferral of the planned site for the Kingdom's first nuclear reactor from Aqaba to Mafraq in late 2010 prompted a backlash from local residents, who held a series of protests and rallies over the past year urging decision makers to go back on their decision.
According to the source, despite JAEC efforts to assuage the concerns of local community leaders, including a familiarisation tour of French nuclear plants for Mafraq MPs, officials failed to sway the opinion of Balaama landowners, many of whom are influential leaders of the Bani Hassan clan, the largest tribe in the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, energy officials are in their final phase of selecting a vendor for the country's first reactor.
According to Toukan, "80 per cent" of the financial evaluation of bids from three short-listed companies, Canada's AECL, Russia's Atomstroy Export and a consortium comprising French AREVA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has been completed, with the final decision to made by the end of the month.
The Kingdom's nuclear power programme calls for the construction of a 1,000 megawatt reactor by the end of the decade, with plans in place for an additional three reactors to transform the country from an energy importer to an electricity exporter.
Nuclear proponents cite Jordan's ongoing struggle for energy independence and the unreliability of Egyptian gas supplies among the reasons to accelerate Amman's nuclear drive.
In addition to environmental and health concerns, anti-nuclear activists point to high up-front capital costs and limited water resources among the reasons to abandon the country's nuclear power programme.