Economic realities are expected to force Jordan to abandon its nuclear ambitions, an energy expert claimed, warning that the government’s ongoing pursuit of atomic energy will only deepen the country’s energy crisis.
British energy researcher Dave Thomas said Jordan’s abandonment of its nuclear plans is all but “inevitable” due to rising construction costs and financing hurdles.
“If you look globally, reactor projects are coming in past deadline and over budget across the board,” said Thomas, who currently serves as energy policy researcher at the London-based University of Greenwich.
“A country such as Jordan simply cannot afford such a costly project, and decision makers are going to realise this sooner or later.”
Thomas said one of the main factors behind atomic energy’s “infeasibility” in Jordan is the industry’s failure to compete with fossil fuels, with standard plants costing countries some $7,000 per kilowatt hour in construction costs — well above the $1,000 figure touted by industry leaders a few years ago.
“The nuclear industry boasted a renaissance when oil prices were rising, but these numbers were never based on reality.”
Jordan’s preferred reactor vendors France’s AREVA and Russia’s AtomStory Export have particularly raised questions over the feasibility of the programme, Thomas claimed.
As AREVA is offering Jordan a yet-to-be licensed reactor model in its ATMEA 1 technology, the reactor may face a six-year licensing and certification period — a move Thomas claimed would push the reactor’s construction to 10 years from the final contract.
Should the government move forward with AREVA’s bid, Thomas said the added years and costs of licensing and certifying the technology is likely to only drive up costs for both the French firm and Jordan, and jeopardise the entire project.
“There are these expectations that a completely new technology can be built right away without proper testing and licensing, which I find unrealistic.”
While AREVA is proposing an unproven technology, Thomas pointed out that AtomStory Export is offering a reactor model it has yet to commission.
Another hidden cost in Jordan’s plans to construct up to four reactors to transform the country from an energy importer to an electricity exporter lies in water use, Thomas warned.
Should the country’s first reactor use some 25 million cubic feet of water for cooling, the cost of pumping the water to its remote desert location will add “millions” to the final price tag.
But the greatest threat to Jordan’s nuclear energy ambitions remains the question of financing, Thomas claimed.
With Jordan battling a budget deficit and soaring energy subsidies, and nuclear energy projects across the world coming in over budget, Thomas said few international credit agencies or energy firms will be willing to take a risk on a venture that has “little chance of success”.
“In the current economic climate, very few firms are willing to take large risks, and there are few projects riskier than a nuclear reactor.”
Jordan’s ongoing pursuit of its “doomed” nuclear ambitions is set to cost citizens more than millions of dollars in studies, contracts and employee salaries, Thomas warned.
The focus on atomic energy continues to siphon away resources and attention from more “viable” energy solutions such as wind and solar power, and oil shale, he claimed, prolonging Jordan’s energy crisis.
“Although the programme will continue to cost the country money, the opportunity cost and time it will take for decision makers to come to the conclusion that nuclear isn’t feasible is the true price the people will have to pay.”
The fallout of nuclear projects’ failure will not be limited to Jordan.
With reactor projects being delayed and suspended worldwide, and Western states turning their backs on atomic energy, the researcher claimed that the entire nuclear industry may be facing its final days.
“Nuclear has long been seen as an easy answer for politicians and decision makers,” Thomas said.
“But after the most recent failures, an argument for nuclear is an argument very few are now willing to make.”
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