Jordan said on Monday it will announce in November the firm it has chosen to build the parched kingdom’s first nuclear plant to meet growing energy needs and desalinate water.
“Three companies were selected in June — a consortium by France’s Areva and Japan’s Mitsubishi, Russia’s Atomstroyexport and Atomic Energy of Canada,” Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Khaled Tukan told AFP.
“The winning bidder will be announced in November,” he said, adding that work is under way to choose a site for the plant, focusing on Al-Majdal, 47 kilometres (29 miles) northeast of the capital.
Jordan, which buys 95 percent of its energy needs, imports about 240 million cubic feet (6.8 million cubic metres) of Egyptian gas daily, or 80 percent of its electricity-generating requirements.
“Nuclear energy is seen as the technology of choice for satisfying future electricity demands and requirements for new power plants,” Tukan said.
Jordan is one of the five driest countries in the world, with 160 cubic metres (5,650 cubic feet) of water a year per capita.
“Water desalination will require a massive amount of electrical power which nuclear energy can provide at a reduced cost,” said the minister.
But concerns in Jordan about nuclear power have been growing after a huge earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s northeast coast in March.
The 9.0-magnitude quake generated a massive tsunami that wiped out towns along vast stretches of the Pacific coast, leaving more than 20,000 people dead or missing and triggering an atomic crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Radiation leaked into the air, sea and soil, contaminating farm produce and also making its way into tap water.
An independent coalition of 16 environmental NGOs in Jordan has organised demonstrations in Amman to denounce the planned nuclear programme, calling for it to be replaced by solar energy projects instead.
“We have to have public acceptance and public awareness. The Fukushima accident has definitely created some fear,” Tukan acknowledged, also warning that “we are living through a very severe energy crisis.”