(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Jordan on Sunday took a "historic" step Sunday towards becoming a nuclear country with an agreement signed between the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) and Australian firm WorleyParsons.
The deal represents a "major milestone and a significant step forward towards Jordan's energy independence", JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan said during the signing ceremony.
Under the $11.3 million agreement, which covers the pre-construction preparations for the country's first nuclear reactor, the Sydney-based firm will spend two years conducting an economic feasibility study and technology selection for the country's first nuclear power plant, slated to be built near Aqaba.
Toukan added at the ceremony, which took place at the commission's offices, that depending on financing, JAEC and WorleyParsons will select the technology for two nuclear reactors to be built and developed in parallel.
According to the JAEC head, the commission has narrowed its choice to five Generation III reactor types: a water-conscious reactor from French firm AREVA, the Canadian Enhanced Candu 6, the South Korean Kepco's APR 1400 and two Russian Rosatom reactors, each with the potential of generating between 1,000-1,200 megawatts.
Under an open and competitive process, WorleyParsons will aid the commission in narrowing the field down to the final strategic partner to sign a contract by late 2012, Toukan told The Jordan Times.
"This contract is not just a document, but a milestone of historical importance to Jordan," WorleyParsons Senior Vice President Djurica Tankosich said during the signing ceremony.
Tankosich stressed that the firm, which has aided in the construction of 16 nuclear reactors in the US, Europe and Asia, does not have any affiliation with nuclear technology suppliers and will ensure an unbiased technology selection process.
"We are proud to say that we are uniquely technologically neutral," he said, noting that with the promise of Jordan's peaceful nuclear programme, the Kingdom will face "commercial and political pressure" in its evaluation process.
Under the agreement, WorleyParsons will aid in establishing the Jordan nuclear electric utility company to own and run the nuclear power plant, Toukan told The Jordan Times previously.
The utility is to be established under a public-private partnership model, owned by private investors, international donor institutions and the government.
In its technology selection and financial feasibility studies, WorleyParsons will work in parallel with the Belgium firm Tractabel, which is currently examining potential locations for the reactor in Aqaba.
The firm will also be tasked with issues related to the reactor's long-term nuclear fuel strategy, Toukan said, noting that the Kingdom will begin tapping its strategic reserves of uranium by establishing three major mines within the next few years.
The government is close to concluding a concession agreement with French firm AREVA, he noted, while an upcoming deal with British-Australian Rio-Tinto will open up the southern region to uranium exploration and mining.
The Australian consultant's tasks will also include management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, environmental protection issues, comprehensive financing and nuclear security, according to the JAEC.
The firm is currently assisting the Egyptian government in the establishment of its first nuclear power reactor.
As the regions share similar geology and environment, Jordan will receive "all the benefits" of their experience in Egypt and elsewhere, Tankosich said.
Toukan underlined that the project has the potential to create 1,000 job opportunities and is set to save the treasury "billions" in light of rising energy demands and fluctuating fossil fuel prices.
The 24-month contract period can be extended to a third year if additional services are needed, Toukan added.
The Kingdom's peaceful nuclear programme aims to build up to four nuclear reactors with the potential to provide 60 per cent of the country's needs by 2035.
By Taylor Luck