Is Nuclear Energy a Realistic Option for Jordan’s Urgent Energy Needs?

June 27, 2012

By Basel Burgan – President of the Jordan Friends of Environment Society

The head of the Jordanian nuclear project, Dr. Khaled Touqan, has declared on several occasions that electricity potentially produced from a Jordanian nuclear power plant will be “strategic for Jordan” and will cost around $ 0.07/Kw-h (today households pay JD 0.033/Kw-h for the lowest consumption ranges in the monthly electricity bill). Touqan, however, has never explained why nuclear power plants (NPP) would be “strategic” when such plants depend highly on foreign expertise and consume vast amounts of water. At other times, Touqan has even declared that electricity produced from nuclear energy might cost as low as $ 0.02/Kw-h. There are many reasons behind this  variation in projected costs: One is that the nuclear project managers have not yet delivered a feasibility study which is the basic prerequisite of a mega project this size. Another reason is that the nuclear lobby refuses to calculate hidden values in the cost of the Kw-h, which are many and could double or triple the net cost calculation.


Six years have passed since Jordan publicly announced its willingness to enter the world nuclear club. At first, environmentalists and activists never believed that Jordan would ever go nuclear. No one believed that a country rated as the world’s fourth poorest in water could seriously be interested in NPPs; a heavily water-dependent industry. But the government was serious, and as the years went by, serious money was spent on the project while the mere basics were neglected.


The rule of thumb for any project (even as small as a chicken farm) is to produce a feasibility study to prove its value. The June 2006 regulation # TECDOC-1513 of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicates clearly in the introduction on page 1 the need for a feasibility study:


“The stages of the development of the basic infrastructure (for NPP) include:

·         Development of nuclear power policy and its formal adoption by the government.

·         Confirmation of the feasibility of implementing a nuclear power project.”

The IAEA TECDOC-1513 insists on a transparent process which duly addresses the following:


“The issues of nuclear project safety, cost, and environmental management of nuclear waste are well known to the public and the proponents of nuclear power will need to demonstrate that they are properly addressed and their impacts on the development program are considered. It is very likely, for example, to face significant difficulties in the public acceptability of the nuclear option if no thought is given to the concept of waste management since the impact of this issue on future generations is of great concern to the public.


It is clear that not all aspects of the nuclear power program could be examined at this stage to the extent needed in the implementation stage. However, a rational outline of the manner of dealing with all issues is necessary for the plan to be presentable to the public and defendable by the authorities.”


The IAEA is right to insist on a feasibility study plus transparency with the public, both as core requirements for entering the nuclear club. Had the JAEC started properly with such basics, it might have had better communication with the citizens of Mafraq, and perhaps the project would never have wasted U$ 200 million over six years (expenditure of JAEC, Tractebel & Worley Parsons consultants, and the Nuclear Research Reactor in JUST). Instead, it would have been shelved from inception.


The feasibility study would have exposed the cost of building the NPP and its operation with all hidden costs very clearly exposed, and would have led to the cancelation of the nuclear project.  The construction of a nuclear power plant was quoted for a huge sum of U$ 5.2 billion per one reactor by French Areva (one NPP cannot be very effective since maintenance over a period of one month is obligatory every 18 months. Thus two NPPs are needed in order to keep operations running.). This offer did not include the unannounced hidden costs, which are:

1-      A nuclear power plant needs eight to ten years to be built and become operational. Jordan needs energy independence today. The cost of the government subsidies for electricity (up to JD 1.17 billion per year – AlGhad June 5th, 2012) for ten years should be added to the feasibility of a NPP. This is equal to JD 11.7 billion over 10 years provided oil & gas market prices and subsidies remain the same.


2-      The need for strong infrastructure (ports & highways needs to be upgraded) to allow the movement of heavy machinery (up to 800 tons per load) from port to site. This might cost hundreds of millions of JDs.


3-      The need to upgrade the electrical grid to allow an entry of 1100 MW from the NPPs. Jordan’s largest grid line connects to the north with 1000 MW and the second largest connects to the south with 400 MW. All grid lines should be upgraded to allow 1100MW (or may be 2200MW) and this might reach a solid U$ 1 billion in costs.


4-      Since NPPs require pure water, the cost of building a Tertiary Water Purification Plant (TWPP) next to Khirbet Al-Samra sewage treatment plant (TWPP are three times more expensive than a desalination plant) is another sum close to U$ 1 billion.


5-      The cost of the interest over the international loan needed to start up the project might reach enormous figures depending on the lender and interest rates imposed. This could be an eight digit figure annually.


6-      After Fukushima, insurance of NPPs skyrocketed. Since the Fukushima catastrophe is estimated to cost Japan some U$ 245 billion in its clean up of the fallout and contamination, no insurance company will sign new contracts if the annual premium is not in the 9 digits.


7-      The cost of military protection is never considered, but due to enormous fear of sabotage in the region, as much as Jordan potentially spends on its NPP military protection plan, it gets back in security and long term operation. This is thought to be in hundreds of millions for equipment and training.


8-      Cost of operation and maintenance over the 40 years life cycle of the NPPs, which is thought to be in the hundreds of millions, should be considered.


9-      Cost of storage of nuclear waste, which is believed to be no less than 300 tons per year. By international laws, nuclear waste has to remain in its originating country. Until today, no country in the world has permanent storage for nuclear waste, and all storage is temporary.  All storage highly depends on water supply. Of note is a major scandal about a temporary storage site in Germany which was leaking into the underground waters for years without being noticed. Storage is a major cost.


10-   The cost of decommissioning a NPP should also be calculated. Estimates for today’s decommissioning of a 1000 MW plant range from $ 700 million to a billion. If we believe that Jordan will decommission its first NPP in 2062, the cost then might reach $10 to 20 billion.


11-   Finally, we should not forget that the NPP is expected to use the treated sewage water of Amman & Zarka. This water is basically turned into grey water that feeds King Talal Dam via Zarka River then joins the Jordan Valley East Canal and is extremely important for agriculture watering in the valley. It is estimated that 25 million cubic meters will be consumed annually by one NPP. The cost of 50 million cubic meters of water for two NPPs should be calculated in agriculture production whereby it could produce some $60 million worth of vegetables annually. This should also be added to the cost.


When we address renewable energy (such as Solar or Wind energies) as a source of energy instead of the nuclear option, the above 11 hidden factors of cost are negligible, keeping in mind that a commercial mega renewable energy project could be commissioned in 12 months. If we calculate hidden costs, nuclear energy will exceed $0.35/Kw-h. I ask: is nuclear energy a realistic option for Jordan’s urgent need for energy independence?

  • by: Basel Burgan

  • the whole nuclear things seems like someone trying to make a quick buck… 3ala hsaab il balad as usual

  • the whole nuclear things seems like someone trying to make a quick buck… 3ala hsaab il balad as usual

  • Maha

    Thank you so much for this. Obviously anyone encouraging the nuclear power plant is zabal o 7mar o ghaby to use khalid toukan’s words. 

    In most countries wasted energy is marginal, but in Jordan the amount of electricity wasted by lighting the streets 2 hours early and keeping them 2 hours later than necessary is HUGE. Excessive lights in the street are a total waste, if you are driving past midnight all lights should be off and you should be careful, if you crash and die ..oh well, one less idiot off the street. I live on a main highway that stretches from amman to salt and the lights are on before sunset and after dawn. Only during Bakheets government were they turned off at midnight. THIS IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE
    There are feasibility studies for utilizing solar and wind power that are shelved because no one has figured out how to steal from them yet.

    • Bahjat Tabbara

      That is not correct; solar and wind don’t work half the time (in fact, did you know wind is only available 30% of the time & not during peak-demand) thus it fails to satisfy the needs of most communities. Solar is a pipe-dream because you only have limited hours of sun (eight hours equivalent of full power) & no nation relies primarily on solar power, at least no big nation. On top of that, CSP (a type of solar that promises 24/7 operation) still costs more than oil and gas per kWh. 

  • Fadi Haddadin

    Sir, Thank you so much for such a great analysis of the cause. Khalid Toqan should read this immediately and understand each word in it. 

  • Fadi Haddadin via Facebook

    The quick buck or entering the history by being the first to bring in the NP to Jordan (Madness of Greatness) … Both are disgusting …

  • Fadi Haddadin

    Dear Basel, Is there a page on facebook for this topic (No Nuclear power in Jordan) or something like it? we need to do something about this seriously … a wake up call must be sent to the gov and to Dr. Khalid Tuqan before its too late. 

  • JordanGoGreen

    Try JordanGoGreen on fb

  • Bingo
    • JordanGoGreen

      This is the old presentation of Dr Nidal Xoubi. He was very interested in facts in the past 2 & 1/2 years after his 2009 PPPs, to a point that he discovered everything to be going wrong.
      This led to his firing by the director of JAEC since he refused misleading Jordanians

  • Bahjat Tabbara

    This article is loaded with poorly researched statements. Burgan has hardly an expert on energy or economics; and his viewpoints clearly represent a misunderstanding of the facts at hand. 

    To answer point for point:

    1-   Oil and gas subsidies will not remain the same; fossil fuels will continue to rise with time, and by 2020 we are certain that prices will be greater than today. Moreover, a NPP (Nuclear Power Plant) or station is composed of several reactors; the first usually takes 5-10 years to construct (FOAK = First Of A Kind) lessons; while subsequent units are cheaper and take less time to construct. Also, his statement on costs are grossly inaccurate. 
    2-   No body said it was cheap but ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ is meaningless without stating the capacity. A 1100 MW plant saves 42,000 BoE (Barrels of Oil Equivalent) per day, which is about 1/3 of Jordan’s present requirements, and that’s worth about  $1300 million per year (or $1.3 Billion) if oil is sold at $85 per barrel. 
    3-      The electrical grid has to be upgraded ANYWAY because Jordan is installing new capacity. The current reactor is simply larger than our oil-guzzling facilities. 
    4-      The cost-statement of a TWPP (Tertiary Water Purification Plant) versus Desalinisation plant fails to consider benefits. A 1100 MW G3+ PWR provides about 8.6 TwH (TerraWatt Hours) of electricity per year; assuming all is consumed, you are talking about 80% of Jordan’s present consumption, and possibly 30-35% of consumption in 2020.

    Again, the cost of a TWPP or Desalinisation plant (combined) would barely supply enough fuel oil for one year. 5-     Again a ‘might’ increase; but development loans, investors, and other factors may actually reduce the cost of operating the reactor. Furthermore, as FOAK lessons are absorbed in Units 2-3-4-5-6 (i.e 2nd – 6th reactor constructed) we will see economies improve and ability to re-pay enhanced.
    6-    Fukushima’s three units  were a Generation II BWR with poor Mk.1 and Mk.2 containment structures. Jordan is looking at  Generation III/III+ PWR designs with the finest standards; and more forgiving environment (i.e. smaller less frequent earthquakes; and no tsunami threats)
    7-      The military is already tasked with protecting everything (from the JOPRC or existing power-plants) and any aggression on our NPPs is likely to be more catastrophic for those attacking it. Remember, the only reason the French security guards didn’t shoot those Greenpeace activists was because of the fury it would cause; otherwise they were careless to put their lives at risk. 
    8-      The cost is part of the C&BA and Feasibility studies; and capital costs will decline as further units of reactors are purchased. The programme doesn’t end with one commercial reactor, it will require up to three perhaps four or even five and six in the long run. 
    9-    That is not true; nuclear waste is not 300 tonnes per year; that is for very large NPPs; over 3000 MW worth (besides, 90% of nuclear waste is either Low or Medium Level Waste) it’s the 10% by weight that forms the High Level Waste which can be stored ON-SITE for reduced costs until future generations can deal with it.
    10-   Reactors last 60 years; extendable by 30-40 years, and besides, the cost is already calculated and paid for in insurance. 
    11-   Correction; a single reactor would need between 30-40 mcm (million cubic metres) of water per year; but also requires a storage area for additional water and ‘back-up’ systems. Note this is ‘net’ water usage; not gross. On top of that, the sewage water is recycled; something farmers were not happy about (grey water) and $60 million of veggies isn’t such a big deal; the farmers are already water wasters as it is. Remember, 60% of our water goes to agriculture but it contributes only 5% of GDP! 

    • Meisha3

      Jordanian Brains Behind the project 

      • Bahjat Tabbara

        They may be brainiacs, & we have the finest minds; which is why we can also operate nuclear reactors. However, ALL of those systems (in the file you provided) would not supply enough power. I am however interested in CSP development for Jordan, and moderate investments in CPV and wind, especially as they can resolve our ‘day-time’ needs.

        One thing that disappoints me is that Burgan hasn’t even mentioned the possibility of joint nuclear-renewables (for example using CPV and wind during the day or night & the reactors would operate in the cooler evening at full capacity -to enhance reactor life-)

      • JordanGoGreen

        Talking about the future and of Gen IV is pure sci-fi. Let us deal with what we have in realty of our hands

        • Bingo

          This is what others call research my friend

          • Basel Burgan

            Yes but we need to solve the energy crises of Jordan today and not in 2060

    • Basel Burgan

      I am very happy to see your response above, which I do not approve with most off it.
      The BASICS of the issue is that “How could a country like Jordan and its cosecutive governments accept a mega project this size (the biggest in Jordan ever) and spend on it close to 1/4 billion US$ WITHOUT ISSUING A FEASIBILITY STUDY”…?? That is the basic issue. If anyone of the commentators has the capability to issue a feasibility study, then PLEASE DO SO, since the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission refused to do so since 2008…!!
      It is today’s basics; you want to build a chicken farm, you do the homework and issue a feasibility of how much you will spend on building the bunker, the price of the chickens, their feed & water, clean ups and heating. Then you clculate how many eggs you sell and when do we get the return. This is the basics for a chicken farm. What shall we say when we discuss a mega project that will cost billions.
      With this I will not talk about another BASICS for Nuclear Energy. It is the second prerequisite on IAEA TECDOC-1513, which is the approval of the citizens in the surounding area. I will not talk much on this, but I hope that JAEC is not considering building by the clubs of the Darak Forces..!!

      • Bahjat Tabbara

        Who said a feasibility study wasn’t conducted? It cannot be completed until fine details are sorted out. Most of us know for a fact what most costs are; but additional costs to adapt to Jordan’s specifications and/or requirements depend on the FINAL LOCATION which has not been determined yet. 

        Also read 
         IAEA TECDOC-1513 carefully:

        Page 3:===========================
        The purpose of public consultation is not to develop support for nuclear power among a majority of population but rather to provide adequate and satisfactory response to legitimate safety, economic and environmental concerns of the public. The issues of nuclear projectsafety, cost, and environmental management of nuclear waste are well known to the public and the proponents of nuclear power will need to demonstrate that they are properly addressed and their impacts on the development programme are considered.

  • Bingo

    I would like to know who is behind the Solar, Wind, Geothermal, I need names now because I know it is not our government, huge amount of money is being invested……………

    • Bahjat Tabbara

      One can agree w/the over-all direction that the country is heading in (in terms of reform) but not in all the details. For example, we still have a HUGE public sector that is causing a wage burden; and a defence budget which still runs into the 7-8% of GDP mark (the global norm for developed nations is usually 1-2% at most) whereas some nations (i.e. USA) spend more than that. 

      In any case, the solar, wind and geothermal lobbies are not proposing macro-solutions. We need solar and wind; but we also need to acknowledge their limitations. The difference between ‘capacity factor’ and ‘capacity’ is often never stated.

      For example, a nuclear power plant with one reactor (1100 MW) by IAEA laws needs an ‘exclusion zone’ of 5km (radius) which when calculated actually produces 1000 (possibly even 1500 MW) of sun using heliostats. 

      However, the capacity factor is so limited (only 30% versus 95% for nuclear) as such, even if it was 1500 MW versus 1100 MW, it would produce 4.33 TwH of power versus 8.6 TwH for nuclear! Moreover, a second, third and fourth reactor unit within proximity will produce even more power.

      I am not against CPV or CSP; but I do think we need BOTH to be applied between now and 2020. For example, I see potential for 400 MW of CSP by 2020; and possibly three times as much by 2030! If I was Minister of Energy I would push CSP R&D as a top DOMESTIC agenda, and CPV as a ‘proven’ concept and ‘stop-gap’ until CSP is ready for mass deployment. 

      That in no way excludes nuclear power.

      • Basel Burgan

        Unfortunately you have not responded to the CORE of the article above. The poit was “how could Jordan spend close to quarter billion U$ in 5 years for a mega project, before issuing a feasibilty study or an Environmental Impact Assement (EIA). Mr Tabbara you are the financial expert, let us all know if any bank would lend or spend money without seeing a feasibility and getting convinced…??

        • Bahjat Tabbara

          An EIA cannot be conducted or completed until the final site has been selected. Moreover, the banks do demand an EIA before lending (after-all, most banks issue Environmental Sustainability Reports) and nuclear power is not excluded from certain donor banks. The World Bank refuses to support nuclear power, but other Development Banks would.

  • Bingo

    Who owns Ayla Green Energy

  • Bingo

    احد اهم شهادة البكالوريوس في الهندسة النووية من جامعة
    ويسكونسن ماديسون في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية 1984
    شهادة الماجستير في الهندسة النووية من جامعة سينسيناتي في الولايات المتحدة
    الأمريكية. 2004
    شهادة الدكتوراه في الهندسة النووية من جامعة سينسيناتي في الولايات المتحدة
    الأمريكية 2005
    الخبرة من1984 الى 2002 مجهولة