Jordan- Islamists call for halt to nuclear programme| MENAFN.COM

Saturday, 26 November 2022 04:14 GMT

Jordan- Islamists call for halt to nuclear programme

(MENAFN- Jordan Times) The Islamist movement on Sunday called for halting the Kingdom's nuclear programme, claiming that information about the project's goals and financing were vague and misleading. Islamist leaders described the project as ambiguous and suspicious, accusing officials in charge of the programme of not being transparent about the programme's agenda. "Contradictions about the programme and whether Jordan will be able to bear its grave consequences if implemented lead us to believe that it serves the interest of others," Islamic Action Front (IAF) Secretary General Hamzah Mansour said yesterday. During a press conference held at the headquarters of the IAF, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, to announce the party's stance towards the nuclear programme, Mansour said the project is against the Kingdom's interests. "If implemented, Jordan will suffer the project's dangerous political, economic, social, financial, health, environmental and security burdens in return for selling others clean electricity at cheap prices and on their terms," he warned. Ali Al Murr, chairman of the IAF's central energy and mineral resources committee, charged that officials in charge of the nuclear programme were promoting the project by giving the public wrong and misleading information. Murr disputed what he described as official claims that Jordan possesses quantities of uranium in excess of 210,000 tonnes, including 140,000 tonnes from phosphate with concentrations ranging between 80 and 280 parts per million (ppm) and 70,000 tonnes of conventional uranium in the centre of the Kingdom. As of last November, official estimates of the Kingdom's total uranium reserves stood at over 100,000 tonnes, while most recent estimates of reserves in the central region are around 20,000 tonnes. The source of Murr's figures was not clear. "These are false statements. The amount of uranium in Jordanian phosphate is actually half the amount, which is only 75,000 tonnes, and at very low concentrations which range between 60ppm and 80ppm," said Murr, a former consultant for the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. Studies show that only 12,000 tonnes of conventional uranium can actually be extracted in the country's central region, he added, asserting that any project for extracting uranium will be unfeasible. Regarding electricity generation via nuclear plants, Murr was sceptical of statements saying that Jordan will become an energy-exporting country by 2030. "Countries operating nuclear plants are advanced nations that improved their nuclear plants over the past six decades, not overnight as is the case in Jordan," he said. He also criticised officials' assertion that the nuclear plants will be safe and pose no public health or safety threats. "This contradicts the fact that nuclear reactors emit various radioactive substances into the atmosphere during normal operation," Murr said, adding that human error as well as technical and logistical difficulties, natural disasters and political factors augment the possibility of a nuclear meltdown. The IAF also questioned the programme's funding and feasibility, claiming that "no real study" has been carried out by authorities to find out whether the project is feasible economically, technically and environmentally. The Islamists also claimed that there is corruption in the programme. Azzam Hneidi, chairman of the IAF's central anti-corruption committee, said that authorities have approached certain companies for offers to implement the project instead of floating international tenders. "There was clear favouritism for the French company AREVA, which was given obvious privileges that enabled it to win the tender, although there were another three competing companies," Hneidi said yesterday. The Jordanian-French Uranium Mining Company, a consortium formed by AREVA and Jordan Energy Resources Inc., has been conducting exploratory activities for uranium mining in the central region since 2009. The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) said last month that it was nearly finished evaluating bids from three short-listed companies, Canada's AECL, Russia's Atomstroy Export and a consortium comprising AREVA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and selecting a vendor for the country's first reactor. Hneidi accused JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan of giving misleading information about the costs of establishing, operating and carrying out maintenance on nuclear plants, the infrastructure requirements, the amount of available uranium, the programme's water needs, safety and security requirements and disposal of nuclear waste. Toukan could not be reached for comment despite several attempts by The Jordan Times to contact him. Testifying before the Lower House in January, Toukan strongly denied allegations of corruption and nepotism in the JAEC, pointed out that most of the funding for the nuclear programme would come from foreign investors, and stressed that no deal would be signed to build a nuclear reactor without parliamentary approval. "We [the IAF] eye the nuclear project as unjustifiable with suspicions of corruption surrounding it and demand halting the project… we call for investing in safe alternative energy resources, with which Jordan is rich," Hneidi announced. The Kingdom's nuclear power programme, which calls for the establishment of a 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor by the end of the next decade, entails the construction of up to four plants to produce over half the country's electricity needs. The country's first nuclear power plant is to be operated under a public-private partnership, a joint venture under which the government would own a 26-51 per cent equity share in the power plant.

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