Jordan set to declare international tenders for nuclear plant

International tenders for the planning phase of Jordan’s proposed nuclear power plant will be announced this month, according to Russia’s nuclear energy company.

The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission and the Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation signed an agreement last week for the framework to construct two nuclear reactors that will add 2,000 megawatts of power to Jordan’s grid. The Arab country aims to have its first reactor unit in operation by 2021, with the second following four years later.

“As for the pre-investment phase of the project, international tenders are already taking place,” a Rosatom spokesman told The National. “In April, it is planned to announce tenders for consulting services, market studies and grid studies.”


The company said that South Korea’s Kepco had already been awarded the work for the site and environmental impact assessments at the end of last year, but declined to name companies involved in the current bid round.

Jordan is working to increase its power generation capacity and expects one-third of its supply to come from nuclear energy by 2030. The country currently imports more than 95 per cent of its energy needs, costing equivalent to about one-fifth of its GDP, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA).

It experienced 37 power outages in 2013, averaging around 14 minutes per interruption, according to the country’s stateowned utility National Electric Power Company (Nepco). The utility said that the total installed power generating capacity stood at 3,366MW with peak loads reaching 2,770MW in 2012. Peak loads increased to 2,975MW the next year.

While nuclear energy could be a solution to Jordan’s growing power demand, safety concerns continue to be an issue in light of the Chernobyl and Fukushima catastrophes.

A meltdown at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 resulted in one of its four nuclear reactors exploding. And 25 years later, a tsunami followed by an earthquake caused the cooling systems to shut down at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, resulting in meltdowns at three reactors.

The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called an emergency high-level debate on the safety of nuclear energy after the incident.

“Twenty-five years ago, the Chernobyl disaster taught us that nuclear radiation respects no borders. Today, the Fukushima disaster in Japan raises popular fears and difficult questions,” Mr Ki-moon said at the time.

Concerns remain the same today requiring that the start of any nuclear programme be met with a plan to educate the public, reassuring that safety measures are a priority.

“I have said ‘culture, machine, outcomes’ meaning how people react and interact with nuclear power determines the outcome,” said Akira Tokuhiro, nuclear energy expert at the University of Idaho.

Fukushima resulted in a sector slowdown worldwide, with Japan alone halting the construction of 14 proposed nuclear reactors.

Germany had already planned to phase out nuclear energy from its mix, but after Fukushima, the Angela Merkel-led government ordered the immediate shutdown of the European country’s seven oldest plants. Germany’s nuclear energy sector now accounts for 15 per cent of power generation, down from 25 per cent before 2010.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, while the number of nuclear plants on order decreased after 2011, the number of countries that said they are considering a nuclear power programme actually increased to 19 by 2013, from 11 two years earlier.

The UAE is one of those countries. Construction at the first unit at the Barakah site west of Abu Dhabi city was started in 2012. The nuclear power plant will have four Korean-built reactors, totaling 5,600MW of capacity, with one coming online each year from 2017.

Belarus also began work in 2013, becoming only the second country in the past three decades to start its first nuclear power plant. Other countries have started site preparation work such as Bangladesh, Turkey and Vietnam. With the exception of the UAE, Russia’s Rosatom has had some hand in each of these nuclear plans.

Two years after Fukushima, Rosatom increased its foreign contracts 42.8 per cent to a value of US$72.7 billion in 2013 from $50.9bn in 2011. The firm expects to help grow the nuclear energy sector around the world, with a forecast to have 80 reactor orders by 2030.

lgraves@thenational.ae

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