Areva granted uranium mining rights in Jordan

22 February 2010

France's Areva has been granted exclusive rights to mine for uranium in the central region of Jordan under an agreement signed with the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).


The mining agreement was signed in Amman on 21 February during a visit to Jordan by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. It was signed by Abu Hammour, Jordan’s minister of finance, Khaled Toukan, chairman of JAEC, Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva, and Jean-Jacques Gautrot, vice-chairman of Nabataean Energy, a joint venture previously set up between JAEC and Areva.


Under the terms of the mining agreement, Areva has been granted the exclusive right to mine the deposit for 25 years. Areva said that it would pursue its current exploration activities, launched one year ago, and carry out a feasibility study covering the environmental, economical and technical aspects of the project prior to starting production. A portion of the uranium produced by the future mine would be used to supply fuel for Jordan’s nuclear energy program.


A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on uranium exploration and mining between Areva and the JAEC was signed in August 2008 during a state visit to France by Jordan's King Abdullah II. The MoU provided for the establishment of a joint venture to explore for uranium in the Middle Eastern country. The agreement was followed in October 2008 by the signing of an initial agreement between Areva and JAEC for the joint exploration of central Jordan.


The Jordanian government has previously estimated its conventional uranium reserves at 140,000 tonnes, plus a further 59,000 tonnes in phosphate deposits. According to JAEC, the annual rate of uranium production from mines in the central region of Jordan will total some 2000 tonnes, which will be used for both the domestic nuclear program and for export. Jordan has stated that it will not pursue a domestic enrichment program. Instead, locally-produced uranium will be enriched overseas under contract and then shipped back to Jordan for use in its proposed power reactors.


In a statement, Areva said: "This recent agreement paves the way for a long-term partnership between Areva and JAEC in the development of Jordan's nuclear power generation program."


Speaking at a press conference following the signing of the agreement, Fillon said: "Our goal is to create a full partnership with Jordan, with both training and control technologies for Jordan and other countries in the region to have access to civilian nuclear technology." He added, "We'll make the best offer to Jordan, and discussions will continue in the coming weeks."


Jordan is poor in terms of both energy and water resources. It currently imports some 95% of its energy requirements. Plans foresee a nuclear power plant for electricity and desalination in operation by 2020, and the country's Committee for Nuclear Strategy has set out a program for nuclear power to provide 30% of electricity by 2030 or 2040, and to provide for exports.


Australia's Worley Parsons has been tasked with narrowing down JAEC's shortlist of five potential reactor designs for the country's first power reactor, as well conducting a feasibility study and financial assessment of the project and assisting in the tender for the plant vendor. In addition, Belgium's Tractebel Engineering, a subsidiary of GdF Suez, has been awarded a contract by JAEC to conduct a two-year siting study to assess the proposed site some 25 km south of Aqaba and about 12 km to the east of Jordan's Red Sea coastline for the country's first nuclear power plant.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News