Jordan has signed an agreement with Canadian reactor vendor AECL, while a domestic phosphate company is studying the production of uranium. Desalination of seawater is seen as a likely application for nuclear power in Jordan.
The country is seen as one of the leading nations in the middle eastern push for nuclear power. Jordan has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with France, the UK and the USA and has also joined the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.
Now, the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission of has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) and SNC-Lavalin. The companies said the MoU would be a framework for collaboration on:
- Engineering and economic studies aimed at demonstrating the technical and economic feasibility of a Candu nuclear power program in Jordan.
- Studies to assess infrastructure development requirements and a site selection process to assess construction feasibility of an enhanced Candu-6 reactor.
- Studies on nuclear fuel fabrication facilities, technology transfer, manpower training and ongoing support to ensure the potential use of Jordan's uranium resources.
AECL's Candu pressurized heavy water reactors are unique in the modern commercial nuclear market in that they operate on natural uranium fuel with no need for enrichment. This capability can give operators a short cut to self-supporting nuclear power and could also preclude concerns about the potential abuse of uranium enrichment. Canada's Financial Post claimed the design is "sometimes referred to as the Porsche of reactors."
On 17 June it was reported by Xinhua that the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company had commissioned a study into the possible extraction of uranium from phosphoric acid already produced at its fertilizer plant. The study should ascertain such a project's feasibility and identify technologies to be used.
Previous statements from the Jordanian government have put its economic uranium resources in phosphate deposits at 59,000 tonnes, while another 140,000 tonnes of uranium resides in more conventional deposits.
In August 2007 the country's Committee for Nuclear Strategy set out a program for nuclear power to provide 30% of electricity by 2030, which would work out to almost 1000 MWe. One scenario along those lines for Jordan would be the use of two Candu-6 units, rated at 790 MWe each, with a portion of the power used to desalinate seawater as suggested by the nuclear cooperation agreement recently signed with the UK, which specifically mentioned desalination. If the reactors were sited on Jordan's 30 kilometer coastline at Aqaba such a project could help to alleviate the country's water shortage, said to amount to some 500 million cubic metres per year.