Jordanians fret over 'dangerous' nuclear plan

Amman - Jordan's plan to build its first nuclear plant with Russian help has stirred fresh fears and suspicions as experts called for the "dangerous" and "illogical" project to be abandoned.

The government announced late last month that two Russian firms will build and operate a $10bn nuclear plant, including two 1 000-megawatt reactors.

The plant, to be completed in 2023, will be built in Amra, a desert area north of the capital, the government said.

Energy-poor Jordan says it wants to develop nuclear power to meet its growing needs and to fire desalination plants to overcome its crippling water shortage.

But activists and environmentalists warn that the project is too risky.

"We are very afraid of this project because it's dangerous to the entire country, people, the environment, and economy. We do not see a need for it," Ali Kassay, a member the Jordanian Coalition for Nuclear Free Jordan, told AFP.

"There are cheaper, better and safer alternatives," he said.

'illogical'

"It's illogical to build a nuclear plant in a country known historically for earthquakes, as well as lack of capabilities, funds, human resources and water."

On 28 October, the government said Russia's Rusatom Overseas will operate the planned nuclear plant as a strategic partner, while Atomstroyexport will provide the atomic technology.

"Before making such announcements, detailed feasibility studies and consultations with local communities should have been carried out," said environmentalist Rauf Dabbas, who also advises the environment ministry.

"Until this day, this has not been taken into consideration," he said.

"There are no local institutions that have the experience to closely monitor such nuclear activities and plans."

Dabbas said the government "is not serious about enhancing the role of the ministries of health and the environment in this project”.

"There are also security concerns. The plant's site is located near main roads linking Jordan to Iraq and Saudi Arabia," he added.

"Jordan's nuclear plans will take at least 10 years to provide us with energy, but we need energy now."

The country imports 97% of its energy needs, and spends around $2bn a year to generate power.

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