By Taylor Luck

AMMAN – The results of a geological feasibility study show that a proposed site in southern Aqaba is suitable for the construction of the Kingdom’s first nuclear reactor, officials announced on Monday.

During a workshop on nuclear power financing with Japanese and French officials yesterday, attended by Prime Minister Samir Rifai, Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Chairman Khaled Toukan said the results of ongoing feasibility studies being carried out by the Belgian firm, Tractabel, have proven that a site in the south of the Kingdom is geologically suitable for a nuclear power plant.

With the geological feasibility study complete, the firm, an affiliate of GDF SUEZ, will move on to an environmental impact assessment at the site, located in an area 20 kilometres west of the port city, several kilometres inland and around 450 metres above sea level, the commission’s chief said.

The JAEC selected Aqaba due to the abundant water sources of the nearby Red Sea and the proximity to infrastructure such as the Port of Aqaba and the electrical grid, the commission has previously stated. The proposed site is expected to have the capacity to house six nuclear reactors.

Regarding financing, Toukan said that the commission is examining ways to cooperate with a private partner to jointly finance and operate the power plant, according to a JAEC statement released yesterday.

Meanwhile, French Minister of State for Foreign Trade Anne-Marie Idrac underlined the importance of the Kingdom’s peaceful nuclear power programme in providing electricity for the country’s various mega-projects.

Also during the workshop, Japanese Ambassador Tetsuo Shioguchi highlighted the Atmea reactor technology, developed in joint cooperation between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and French firm AREVA. Japan and France have boasted that the technology, based on pressurised water, fits the Kingdom’s needs as it is not as water intensive as other Generation III reactor models.

The workshop, part of a series of such events being held by countries that have offered tenders for the construction of the Kingdom’s first reactor, aims to explore interest and means to finance the country’s fledgling peaceful nuclear power programme, according to JAEC.

Future workshops will be used as a venue to vet the potential of Canadian, Russian and South Korean technology and financing options, the commission indicated.

The event’s opening was attended by Prime Minister Samir Rifai and the ministers of energy, water and irrigation, and environment, as well as representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs, industry and trade, and planning and international cooperation, in addition to the Social Security Corporation Investment Unit.

Representatives from GDF SUEZ, French banks BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Calyon as well as representatives of the Japanese government and the Mitsubishi Corporation are also taking part in the workshop.

In addition to the technical aspects of the nuclear power plant project, the workshop covers financing to generate electricity, debt financing, models of cost recovery, relationship between the investor and operator, quality assurance and the French model of nuclear power financing, the JAEC stated.