Are Jordan's nuclear ambitions a mirage?

While Jordan has made impressive progress in pursuing nuclear energy, many urgent challenges still need to be addressed.

In October of this year, Jordan announced it had chosen Russia to build its first two nuclear power reactors. Historically, Jordan has lacked access to energy resources. It depends on imports for more than 96 percent of power consumption. This means that a whopping 20 to 25 percent of Jordan’s national expenditures go to importing energy. That is a massive outflow of capital for a country of only 6.5 million people. Jordan’s decision to turn to nuclear power, however, doesn’t mean that the kingdom is about to sail smoothly into the club of nations that produce their own nuclear energy. While Jordan is in great need of a less costly and more reliable energy source, it won’t get there unless it can overcome some major challenges.

High demand. Jordan’s pursuit of nuclear energy is motivated by two factors. The first is a desire to expand, secure, and diversify its energy sources. The kingdom estimates that its electricity consumption will more than double by 2030, reaching 6,000 megawatts per year.

Jordanians have long experienced wild energy price fluctuations and repeated blackouts due to sudden shortages. For example, the pipeline that runs from Egypt to Jordan—and supplies Jordan with more than 80 percent of its natural gas—has been bombed more than 15 times since 2011 as a result of the volatile security situation. Since July 2013 the gas supply from Egypt has been completely suspended, costing Jordan’s fragile economy more than $2 billion. For these reasons, the kingdom understandably looks with hope to nuclear energy as a source of electricity for households, water desalination plants, and industry.

Continue reading at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Are Jordan's nuclear ambitions a mirage?

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