Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Jordan Civilian Nuclear Cooperation With The USA

Under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), America assists developing nations in pursuing civilian nuclear-power programs in exchange for guarantees they won't seek to produce atomic bombs. Is the Obama administration going to rename or resurrect the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), which was designed to address programs such as the one being considered with Jordan? President Obama instructed the Department of Energy on June 29, 2009 to cease preparation for a nuclear recycling program under the GNEP.

Jordan is about to conclude a civilian nuclear-cooperation agreement with the U.S., which would make Jordan the second Arab state in less than a year, following the United Arab Emirates, to secure nuclear assistance from Washington. Any pact would constitute an international treaty and need the approval of Congress. An accord with Jordan would allow U.S. firms to transfer nuclear equipment, fuel and expertise to Jordan.

A potential stumbling block in the Jordan-U.S. deliberations is whether Jordan will provide guarantees that it will not enrich uranium domestically. Jordan's agreement could face problems in Congress if Jordan does not approve a zero-enrichment clause. Jordan is willing to ship its uranium-ore deposits to third countries for processing into nuclear fuels. Jordan is also coordinating closely with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, but is cautious about negotiating a deal with the U.S. that would surrender its rights to enrich under terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Jordan wants to use its large supplies of recently discovered uranium ore to build a number of nuclear reactors within the next ten years. Jordan's government also seeks to use the uranium to power desalination plants that can produce potable water from the sea. Jordan is 96% dependent on importing petroleum and its uranium assets give them the hope that we won't be entirely energy dependent on other nations in the future.

The Jordanian government has signed nuclear-cooperation agreements or had extensive discussions with a string of countries in addition to the U.S., such as France, Canada, China, South Korea and Japan. The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission formed a joint-venture with France's Areva SA in 2008 to mine Jordan's uranium-ore deposits, which are estimated to exceed 100,000 tons. A South Korean consortium headed by the Korea Electric Power Corporation also recently signed a contract with Jordan's government worth nearly $200 million to build a research reactor. (WSJ, 2/10/10)

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