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Hind al Fayez -charismatic young parliamentarian challenges Jordan’s nuclear ambitions

Al-Fayez,-HindAmong other concerns, Al Fayez questions how a state with such little water will be able to cool a reactor situated more than 200 miles from the shoreline, and whether Jordan has sufficient human capital (i.e., enough nuclear physicists) to safely operate the facilities. She has also expressed dismay with the $10 billion price tag, a sum roughly equivalent to Jordan’s total 2013 annual budget

The Middle East’s Next Nuclear Power? It may not be the one you’re thinking about. Politico, By DAVID SCHENKER January 28, 2015 “…….even as Western attention has focused all around Jordan—and especially on the nuclear negotiations with Iran—in a little-noticed series of moves, the Kingdom’s been edging closer to going nuclear itself. In fact, the Kingdom of Jordan, Washington’s most reliable Arab partner, is the latest Middle Eastern state considering nuclear energy that is refusing to relinquish its right to enrich.

To prevent proliferation, the US has long held that Middle Eastern states seeking nuclear energy must forego the right to enrich nuclear material. The principle of no-enrichment has underpinned the so-called “gold standard” of US-bilateral nuclear agreements……..

—in its December 2009 agreement with the US, the United Arab Emirates acquiesced to forego enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel……….Over the past four years, the Kingdom has increasingly focused on nuclear energy, in particular the construction of two 1000-megawatt power plants…….Amman’s proposed nuclear facilities have met with opposition both at home and abroad. Washington’s stated opposition to the program revolves around enrichment. Jordan’s resolve to maintain this right has stymied efforts to reach a “123 agreement” governing US international nuclear cooperation……….

Israel, too, has taken issue with Jordan’s nuclear ambitions, primarily due to concerns about safety. One of Jordan’s proposed nuclear plants, at least initially, was slated to be built in the Jordan River Valley, a major earthquake fault line. According to a US diplomatic cable disclosed by WIKILEAKS, Israel highlighted these apprehensions during a meeting with their Jordanian counterparts in 2009—two years before the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe—only to have the Jordanian officials respond by citing Japan as an earthquake-prone country that builds safe nuclear reactors.

The biggest opposition to Jordan’s nuclear project, however, is domestic. It’s not difficult to see why. To start, one of the proposed plants is slated to be built in the heartland of the Bani Sakr, Jordan’s largest tribe. A charismatic young parliamentarian named Hind al Fayez—who hails from the tribe and happens to be married to a prominent local environmental activist—has adopted the no nukes agenda as her cause celebre. In May 2012, she spearheaded a successful vote in parliament to suspend the program.

Among other concerns, Al Fayez questions how a state with such little water will be able to cool a reactor situated more than 200 miles from the shoreline, and whether Jordan has sufficient human capital (i.e., enough nuclear physicists) to safely operate the facilities. She has also expressed dismay with the $10 billion price tag, a sum roughly equivalent to Jordan’s total 2013 annual budget………….

It’s also possible that heightened fears of terrorism fueled by the recent territorial gains by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or ISIL, are dampening enthusiasm for the project.

Last year, Hind Al Fayez said “They’ll build that plant over my dead body.” A year on, her hostility toward the program has not noticeably diminished………

In the face of continued foreign and domestic opposition, it isn’t clear that Jordan will actually proceed with the nuclear option. Today the Atomic Energy Commission is calling nuclear power “a strategic choice,” but with nearly a million Syrian refugees in the Kingdom, a stumbling economy, a rising threat of terrorism on the home front, and with a downed Jordanian pilot currently held captive by ISIL, King Abdullah could punt, delaying a decision—and avoiding confrontation with Washington—for the indefinite future. Given the ongoing challenges, for the time being at least, no nukes should be a no-brainer for the Kingdom.

David Schenker is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002-2006, he served as Levant director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/01/jordan-nuclear-power-114712.html#ixzz3QWh57w60

February 2, 2015 - Posted by | Jordan, opposition to nuclear

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