(MENAFN- Jordan Times) A parliamentary committee has accused the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) of deliberately "misleading" the public and officials over the Kingdom's nuclear programme as a nuclear official refuted the findings as "inaccurate".
In a report released last week, the Lower House Energy and Mineral Resources Committee charged that JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan of issuing misleading statements emphasising the economic feasibility of uranium mining in Jordan "despite the fact no feasibility study has been conducted yet".
"Observing the principle of confidentiality of information, as stipulated in the agreement with AREVA, cannot be an excuse to keep deputies in the dark unless there is something the JAEC intends to hide from the people and the Lower House," the committee said in the report.
The Jordan-French Uranium Mining Company has issued periodic reports on its ongoing exploration activities in the central region.
Experts then placed the preliminary results at 14,000 tonnes as the preliminary results of a survey of one-fourth of a 15-square-kilometre area, indicating that the firm is set to revise its findings in light of recent exploration of more favourable surface reserves.
"When it is all said and done we expect to have at least double than the previous numbers, which was an accurate depiction of the early results," Toukan told The Jordan Times in response to the MPs' remarks.
An Australian auditor is set to issue on Tuesday a review of the firm's findings using in-depth chemical testing and analysis, with officials expecting the findings to reveal larger amounts of uranium reserves previously detected by the French-Jordanian firm.
Lawmakers were "unsatisfied" by previous remarks made by Toukan during a January House session indicating that the nuclear programme is of strategic importance and is being carried out in accordance with the "highest safety standards".
Unconvinced with Toukan's response, MP Mahmoud Kharabsheh (Balqa, 1st District) launched an inquiry, requesting again that the government provide him with all documents related to the programme.
The parliamentary committee prepared a 12-page report, a copy of which was made available to The Jordan Times.
The House committee also charged that Jordan's nuclear project is not progressing according to JAEC's previously released timetable.
"It is assumed, according to the JAEC's promises, that, by 2012, Jordan will start producing 2,000 tonnes of the yellowcake, which means providing the Treasury with hundreds of millions of dollars generated from selling the uranium," the report said, pointing to the delay in the establishment of a uranium mine as a sign that the programme is "behind schedule".
According to Toukan, "the report quotes information provided in lectures in 2007 and 2008, at a time when the nuclear programme was in its infancy and the uranium market was more promising".
The uranium mining agreement between Jordan and France does not include the 2012 timetable as quoted by the report, he said.
The parliamentary committee also accused JAEC of "hiding facts" related to the costs of the projected nuclear reactor, deliberately omitting non-construction costs of the project.
"In its answer, the JAEC said that a 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor will cost $5 billion," the parliamentary panel said, but the nuclear agency provided no information on the costs of other aspects of the project, such as the water cooling, the electricity to operate the project, nuclear waste storage and plant decommissioning.
In a hearing in January, Kharabsheh claimed that the additional costs will raise the total price tag of the project to JD20 billion, a figure Toukan disputed.
JAEC stresses that it issued accurate construction cost projections, pointing out that Canadian firm AECL offered two reactors at JD7 billion while the price tag for the Russian reactor was under JD5 billion.
"What the report is referring to is the cost of a desalination plant and an electricity grid upgrade, which are unrelated to the nuclear programme," Toukan said.
The report also accused the commission of corruption in the selection process of the vendor for the country's nuclear research reactor, claiming that the commission passed over a $63 million offer to construct the reactor for a Korean firm that charged the Kingdom $130 million for the project.
According to JAEC, the lowest offer was in fact an $87 million research reactor offered by an Argentinian firm, pointing out that the Korean bid included a $70 million soft loan that added to the financial feasibility of the project.
The committee also charged that JAEC declined to give exact answers on the environment impact of the projected nuclear programme and focused in its answers only on the uranium mining project.
JAEC attributes the lack of an environmental impact study to ongoing delays in the selection of a reactor site, with the commission currently narrowing in on two rival sites east of Mafraq.
"You have to choose the site first before you can study the environmental impact of any reactor," Toukan told The Jordan Times.
The committee accused JAEC of "violating principles of transparency, fairness and competitiveness" in the selection of candidates for its scholarships, claiming officials sent "unqualified students of low academic records" to study abroad in order to receive certification to man the country's nuclear programme, a step they say raises the possibility of "human errors".
Toukan stressed that the 43 students selected by France to receive training were in high academic standing, indicating that the report referred to two university students who had a series of "B" and B+".
During a House session on Sunday, deputies are scheduled to discuss an audio recording published by several news websites recently in which Toukan allegedly referred to critics of the nuclear programme as "donkeys and garbage men".
Toukan's "abusive remarks" prompted a parliamentary motion calling for the atomic energy chief's dismissal.
Toukan has refuted the alleged recording, which he claims was fabricated as part of a wider conspiracy to undermine the nuclear programme.
International Atomic Energy Agency officials have repeatedly praised Jordan's nuclear programme, which they have described as a model of transparency that falls within international guidelines.
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