Jordan- Protesters call for dismissal of nuclear chairman

(MENAFN- Jordan Times) Some two-dozen activists protested against the Kingdom's nuclear programme Saturday, urging the dismissal of the atomic energy commission chairman. In a sit-in at the Fourth Circle near the Prime Ministry, some 25 anti-nuclear and environmental activists called for the immediate dismissal of Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Chairman Khaled Toukan, whom they accuse of "misleading the public" over the viability of the country's nuclear drive. Accusing the JAEC of underestimating the cost of the country's first nuclear reactor, activists chanted "Toukan leave, Jordanians are not donkeys" and "The people want the end to the nuclear reactor." Participants also called on authorities to place Toukan "on trial" for suspected corruption in the nuclear programme and bar the former higher education and energy minister from assuming any official post in the future. "Toukan says one thing one day, and another the next," said Ayyoub Abu Dayyeh, an environmentalist and leading anti-nuclear activist. "He has simply lost the faith of the Jordan public and it is time for him to go." Protesters also called for increased investment in domestic energy sources such as solar, wind and oil shale, claiming that officials cannot secure the Kingdom's energy independence through nuclear power. The sit-in comes amid controversy over the release of a recording attributed to Toukan and published by news websites in which he allegedly refers to those who oppose the nuclear programme as "donkeys and garbage men". Toukan has described the recording as a fabrication as part of a wider conspiracy to undermine the Kingdom's nuclear programme. The JAEC chairman pointed to the timing of the release of the allegedly year-old recording - at a time when energy officials are narrowing in on a reactor vendor and reaching out to a strategic investor - as a sign that the supposed "leak" was an attempt to throw an obstacle in front of the nuclear programme. Energy officials have singled out nuclear power as key to weaning the country off energy imports, which cost some 25 per cent of gross domestic product and have pushed the budget deficit to a near-record JD2.08 billion. The JAEC points to ongoing disruptions in Egyptian gas supplies and rising oil prices, which are forcing authorities to introduce new electricity tariffs raising monthly bills by up to 40 per cent, as reasons why the nuclear programme is a "national priority".

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