By Taylor Luck

AMMAN – The Kingdom is months away from announcing the winning bidder to construct the country’s first nuclear reactor as anti-nuclear activists vowed to step up their protest activities.

Officials are expected to announce the name of the selected reactor vendor in November, according to Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Khaled Toukan.

The announcement of the company chosen to construct the plant at a site in Majdal, near Mafraq, some 40 kilometres northeast of Amman, was originally slated to be in December.

The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) is currently vetting offers from three shortlisted companies.

The offers to construct a 1,000-megawatt Generation III reactor by the end of the decade are from Canada’s AECL, Russian Atomstroy Export and a French-Japanese consortium comprising AREVA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Nidal Hassan, organiser of Irhamouna, a coalition of Mafraq residents and environmentalists mobilised against the nuclear programme, said that no matter which firm is selected by the JAEC, it will face stiff resistance from local residents.

“We refuse the construction of a nuclear reactor, whether it is the French or the Canadians or the Russians,” he said.

“The people of Mafraq do not need and do not want nuclear power.”

According to Hassan, Irhamouna is set to partner with environmentalist groups to launch a series of information sessions and demonstrations against the Kingdom’s peaceful nuclear programme in Mafraq and the capital following the holy month of Ramadan.

Energy officials in Amman have prioritised nuclear power as key to weaning the country off energy imports, which cost the country one-fifth of its gross domestic product in 2010.

Officials point to stable long-term electricity prices and the ability to utilise the country’s extensive uranium reserves – estimated at over 100,000 tonnes – as among the several advantages of atomic energy.

In addition to environmental and health concerns, activists point to lack of water – the Kingdom’s first nuclear reactor is to be cooled by the Khirbet Al Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant – and construction costs as grounds to freeze the programme.