(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Energy officials are closing in on the site for Jordan's first nuclear reactor, as Amman moves closer to selecting a reactor vendor.
According to Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Chairman Khaled Toukan, energy officials are set to complete a site selection study by the end of this month.
Tractabel, the Belgian engineering consultancy that is assisting the commission with the site selection process, is narrowing in on one of six different locations, including previously announced potential sites in Aqaba and Mafraq.
JAEC stressed that safety, seismic stability and access to water for cooling purposes are among several main factors the firm is taking into account in its evaluation, which is to be forwarded for review to the Kingdom's nuclear safety watchdog, the Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
In parallel with the site selection process, the commission is closing in on a reactor vendor, weighing proposals from three short-listed firms: Canada's AECL, Russian Atomstroy Export and a French-Japanese consortium comprising AREVA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
According to Toukan, the JAEC and consultancy firm Worley Parsons are set to make a final technology selection by the end of February, with an official announcement due by the end of March.
Meanwhile, in a lecture delivered at the Professional Associations Complex late Sunday, Toukan said the first nuclear power plant, a 1,100-megawatt Generation III reactor, will be online and producing electricity by the end of the decade.
The JAEC's projected timeline entails a seven-year construction period, well short of the average decade timeline projected for commercial Generation III reactors.
Energy officials in Amman have identified atomic energy as key to the Kingdom's energy independence and easing the country's reliance on Egyptian gas, which has witnessed several disruptions over the last year raising doubts over reliability of the supply.
The site selection and technology processes come as the programme faces growing resistance from environmentalists and anti-nuclear activists.
In addition to health concerns, anti-nuclear activists point to high up-front capital investment costs and intensive water needs for reactor cooling - estimated at some 30 million cubic feet per year - as grounds to freeze the programme.
Energy officials list stable electricity costs, low-carbon emissions and the presence of the Kingdom's strategic uranium reserves as among atomic energy's advantages.