France's Areva has signed an agreement with the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) for joint exploration of uranium in central Jordan.
|Areva and JAEC sign the agreement (Image: Areva)
The agreement - which grants the exclusive right of exploring and mining uranium in the central areas of Jordan to the newly-created Jordanian-French company - was signed in Paris on 30 September by Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon and JAEC chairman Khaled Touqan.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on uranium exploration and mining between Areva and the JAEC was signed in August during a state visit to France by Jordan's King Abdullah II. The MoU provided for the establishment of a joint venture to explore for uranium in the Middle Eastern country.
Areva has yet to confirm to WNN a report by the Jordan Times that the company expects to begin drilling in November at the launch of the project's first phase, during which it will identify the locations of uranium deposits in the region specified in the agreement. According to the newspaper, Touqan added that a feasibility study will be conducted following the first phase in order to prepare for the construction of a uranium mine. Actual production, Touqan said, is expected to start in 2012 at an annual rate of 2000 tonnes.
In a statement, Areva said, "This agreement paves the way for a long-term partnership between Areva and the JAEC in the prospect of the development of Jordan's nuclear power generation program."
The Jordanian government has previously estimated its conventional uranium reserves at 140,000 tonnes, plus a further 59,000 tonnes in phosphate deposits. A study into the possible extraction of uranium as a by-product of phosphoric acid production was commissioned by the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company according to reports in July.
Jordan, an energy resource-poor country that currently imports about 95% of its needs, is working towards introducing nuclear power for both energy and water desalination with plans for its first nuclear plant to start up in 2015. It has signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with China, adding to similar agreements with the USA, France and UK. Additionally, JAEC recently signed an agreement with Canadian reactor vendor AECL and SNC-Lavalin to look into the feasibility of setting up a nuclear power program based on the Canadian-designed Candu reactor. It is also reported to be discussing the possibility of buying a reactor from Areva.
Jordan joined the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), the US-led initiative to expand nuclear energy use worldwide while reducing the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, in 2007.