The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) has awarded a $12 million contract to Belgium's Tractebel Engineering, a subsidiary of GdF Suez, to conduct a siting study for the country's first nuclear power plant.
Under the contract, signed by JAEC chairman Khaled Toukan and Tractebel CEO Georges Cornet, Tractebel will conduct a two-year survey to assess the proposed site some 25 km south of Aqaba and about 12 km to the east of Jordan's Red Sea coastline. The site had earlier been identified as the preferred site for the plant by JAEC and a technical national committee.
Bonding with Brazil
The signing of a contract with Jordan comes one week after Tractebel's parent, GdF Suez, signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Brazil. The agreement was signed during a state visit to Brazil by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
GdF Suez said that the agreement with Brazil's Eletrobras and Eletronuclear "will be aimed primarily at the exchange of information and experience, in order to pursue the country's nuclear program."
It added that the cooperation efforts focus on "the issues that govern the success of a nuclear programme: top-quality operation of nuclear power plants, technology and design, ownership, control and funding mechanisms, selection process for construction sites, public acceptance, and development of human resources."
Brazil's National Energy Plan to 2030 specifies that 6000 MWe of nuclear capacity will be needed by that date. New sites large enough to host six 1000 MWe reactors each are to be chosen in the northeast and southeast of the country.
Tractebel was selected from six international companies which competed for the site study contract. Two other companies - Jordan's Arab Consultants Bureau and France's Bureau Veritas - will also participate in the site assessment study.
The studies will cover public health, safety, and security issues, in addition to conducting specialized surveys to assess geological stability, geophysics, soil characteristics, water proximity and cooling water requirements, risk assessment, electricity grid connectivity, environmental and health impact, and natural and human induced events.
"The Commission is exercising extra effort and transparency in adopting best practices to decide the safest and most secure location," Toukan said. He added that the site location studies will examine and determine the best suited location that meets the practical and scientific criteria to protect both public health and the environment.
Cornet commented that Tractebel would "use its extensive experience and vast international resources to locate the best site possible for the proposed nuclear power plant."
Jordan is poor in terms of both energy and water resources. It currently imports some 95% of its energy requirements. Jordanian energy plans foresee a nuclear power plant for electricity and desalination in operation by 2015, and the country's Committee for Nuclear Strategy has set out a program for nuclear power to provide 30% of electricity by 2030 or 2040, and to provide for exports.
As well as a raft of international cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding covering both nuclear power and uranium exploration, it has agreed an Additional Protocol on nuclear safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and signed up to the International Nuclear Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.