Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who Gets to Build Reactors for Jordan?

It seems that two potential customers are vying for Jordan’s nuclear business. Based on the articles below, France and China are both ready to help the Hashemite Kingdom build nuclear power plants.

First, France.

Nicolas Sarkozy has already proved himself eager to nuclearize much of North Africa, and now he’s ready to move into the Middle Eastern market. According to ANSAmed:

Energy: Jordan Will Buy French Nuclear Reactor

AMMAN, AUGUST 26 — Jordan will purchase a nuclear reactor from France to provide alternative source of energy amid rising fuel prices, French diplomats said on Tuesday. Jordan has already signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with France earlier this summer to pave the way for technology transfer to the cash-strapped kingdom.

No financial details were disclosed to the value of the agreement, but sources say France in exchange would be allowed to extract uranium and other nuclear materials from the kingdom in the south, known to have one of the largest reserves of uranium in the world.

Now the motivation becomes a little clearer: France gets access to some of that uranium for its own purposes.
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The agreement is expected to be declared during an upcoming meeting to Jordan’s king Abdullah to France, according to prime minister Nader Dahabi, who also confirmed the deal during a meeting with French parliamentarians in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Neighboring Israel is widely believed to own the fourth largest nuclear arsenals in the world, but the Jewish state neighbour [neither] confirms nor denies its possession of nuclear power.

Several Arab countries said they want to build nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes after oil prices soared, including oil rich Saudi, Qatar, Bahrain, and Egypt. With Iran at a stand off with the international community regarding its nuclear programme it remains unclear if the Arab country’s desire to own their own programmes is the answer to Iran’s nuclear ambition.

Remember, though: these are all peaceful nuclear ambitions. We know that because everyone — from Ahmadinejad to Assad to King Abdullah to Mubarak — told us so. What reason would any of these gentlemen have to lie?

And now for China. The Middle Kingdom presumably has at least as much interest in uranium ore as do the French. According to another ANSAmed story:

Jordan: Nuclear Power Agreement With China

AMMAN, AUGUST 19 — Jordan and China on Tuesday signed nuclear cooperation agreement whereby the latter will help the kingdom establish its peaceful nuclear programme, according to an official statement run by Petra news agency. The programme will focus on building facilities to allow the kingdom generate electricity and water desalination stations in the port city of Aqaba and other parts of the kingdom, said Khalid Touqan, head of Jordan’s nuclear commission.

Both sides agreed to explore the kingdom’s reserves of uranium and other material deemed necessary for nuclear energy as well as implementing programmes on nuclear safety, said Touqan.

Jordan so far signed similar agreements with the US, France and Canada. Jordan’s government lacks enough financial resources to proceed with an ambitious project to generate energy through nuclear power and is currently looking into entering partnership with various countries to provide the technology in exchange for allowing the second party tap into the kingdom’s abundant resources of uranium. The desert kingdom is considered one of the richest in the region in terms of uranium reserves.

So the USA and Canada have already cut their own deals. Now the picture is becoming clearer: eventually every nuclear-capable country will show up at King Abdullah’s doorstep with a contract and a fountain pen at the ready.

As for the United States — I can’t imagine what we’ll do with more uranium, since we can neither build nor test new weapons, and nuclear power plants have been ruled off the turf.

Maybe we need more glow-in-the-dark watch dials…?

Hat tip: Insubria.