Nuclear Power Plant in Qusair Amra, Jordan

In October 2013, Jordan and Russia agreed on the construction of a $10 billion nuclear power plant in Qusair Amra, leading to protests from activists, tribes, MPs and scientists in the country.


Description

More than 95% of Jordan’s energy supply is imported, which comes at a cost of around one-fifth of the Hashemite Kingdom’s entire GDP [1] and the Energy Ministry expects the country’s total energy demand to grow by 50% and the electricity demand by 74% by 2020 [2]. In addition, the price that Jordan pays for its energy is also unsteady and high due to the instability in the countries from which fossil fuels were traditionally imported. In fact, Jordan used to import subsidized oil from Iraq until the US military intervention in 2003 and then turned to subsidized natural gas from Egypt until the political turmoil in the country made the supply very inconsistent [2].   Since 2007, and in the aim of making Jordan energy independent and an energy exporter, the Jordanian government planned a nuclear program with a capacity of 1000 MW in 2020 which accounts for 6% of the kingdom’s energy demand and with the intention to reach 20% in 2030 [3]. The Jordanian Nuclear Atomic Commission was thus created to be responsible for safety and security, nuclear science and technology, as well as safeguards and verifications [1].   Many sites were evaluated between 2009 and 2014. At first, sites with the option of seawater cooling were examined. JAEC contracted, Tractabel a subsidiary of GdF Suez to study a site 25 Km south of Al-Aqaba and 12 Km east of Al-Aqaba coastline. Later in 2010, Tractabel’s attention turned to Al-Amra, 70 Km north of Amman, for better seismic characteristics, with cooling water coming from a nearby Wastewater Treatment plant. Ultimately, a site in Qusair Amra, a town 70 Km southeast of Amman, was picked [1].   On October 28, 2013, it was announced that a $10 billion deal was struck with Russian firm Rosatom to construct 2 nuclear reactors [4], with the Russian side contributing 49% of the project’s cost and the Jordanian government with 51% [5]. With the hope that it will be fueled with uranium mined in Jordan [9].   Many activists, energy experts, and parliamentarians protested the deal, pointing at the dangers it poses to the environment and the economy [4]. Authorities, on the other hand, conceded that although atomic energy is not ideal it is the only way for Jordan to solve its energy crisis [2].   In 2012, the parliament voted to suspend Nuclear Energy Planning fearing the negative effects a power plant could have on the environment. Vocal parliamentarian Hind al-Fayez, from the Bani Sakhir tribe (situated near the proposed site) was at the forefront of the opposition to JAEC. Despite the favorable vote, JAEC went through with the project [6].   Greenpeace Jordan also criticized the project stating that no environmental assessment was done, the lack of nearby sources for cooling – The proposed source is 70 Km away – and the use of water currently being used for irrigation and agriculture. In fact, with 135 m3 of water per capita, Jordan is the fourth water-poor country in the world [7]. The site for the planned reactors, meanwhile, sits directly atop the Azraq aquifer, a major source of freshwater for the Jordanian capital. Environmentalists warn that one accident may instantly poison up to one-third of the country’s water networks [8]. Moreover, and despite not having started construction, Greenpeace claims the project already depleted hundreds of millions of dollars which could have been invested in renewable energy [4].   A group of 5,000 young men formed the “Bani Sakher Awakening” group which launched a series of civil disobedience campaigns to prevent construction crews of reaching the site. Tribesmen, farmers and environmental activists, former nuclear engineers and MPs often gather in Qusair Amra in anti-nuclear meetings stating they are protecting the area’s rich historical and cultural past, its environment and its future [8].   As of April 2014, the country recorded a $2.8 billion budget deficit prompting the government to take several austerity measures like removing flour and fuel subsidies. According to activists, nuclear costs will be too much of a burden on a country already dependent on aid and with calls for the development of solar energy multiplying [8].   In order to keep the pressure, sit-ins in front of the Energy Ministry, conferences and other events are being regularly organized by the Nuclear Free Jordan collective which seeks to highlight the unsustainability of nuclear energy and its detrimental effects [10]. In a final disagreement, both sides claim they are winning the fight. Kawwar, a parliamentarian, says opposition to the nuclear program is building in the halls of power, as decision makers realize they have been misinformed about nuclear energy’s costs and benefits. JAEC officials say that everything is on track. On August 20, 2016the  (JAEC) said that Jordan’s first nuclear power plant could be operational by 2025 if sufficient financing is secured [11].

Basic Data
NameNuclear Power Plant in Qusair Amra, Jordan
CountryJordan
ProvinceZarqa Governorate
SiteQusair Amra
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Nuclear power plants
Specific CommoditiesWater
Electricity
Uranium
Project Details and Actors
Project Details The plan includes two 1000 MW nuclear power units.
Level of Investment (in USD)10,000,000,000.00
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date28/10/2013
Company Names or State EnterprisesRosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) from Russian Federation
GDF Suez (GDF Suez) from France
Tractabel from Belgium
Relevant government actorsJordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC)

Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission (JNRC)
International and Financial InstitutionsInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGreenpeace: https://greenpeacearabic.org/

Bani Sakher Awakening

Nuclear Free Jordan: https://tinyurl.com/k2cnzyj
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Development of AlternativesEnvironmental Activists mainly call for the development of renewable energy, mainly wind and solar. They completely reject the construction of a Nuclear Power Plant anywhere in Jordan
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Both sides claim they are winning the fight. Kawwar, a parliamentarian, says opposition to the nuclear program is building in the halls of power, as decision makers realize they have been misinformed about nuclear energy’s costs and benefits. JAEC officials say that everything is on track.
Sources and Materials
References

[7] - About Jordan - UNDP
[click to view]

[3] - The Contested Energy Future of Amman, Jordan: Between Promises of Alternative Energies and a Nuclear Venture

Éric Verdeil - 2014
[click to view]

Links

[11] - Jordan seeking funds for first nuclear power plant — official
[click to view]

[2] - The Battle Over Nuclear Jordan
[click to view]

[1] - Nuclear Power in Jordan (March 2017)
[click to view]

[4] - Jordan faces no-nukes campaign
[click to view]

[6] - Time to Reconsider Jordan’s Nuclear Program - Middle East Institute, June 2016
[click to view]

[8] - Jordan nuclear battle heats up - Al-Jazeera, April 14, 2014
[click to view]

[5] - Public Announcement from Jordanian Government
[click to view]

[9] - Russia to build Jordan's first nuclear power plant - Al-Jazeera, 25 March, 2015
[click to view]

Media Links

[10] - Nuclear Free Jordan أردن خالي من النووي
[click to view]

Other Documents

Our Jordan Isn't Nuclear Greenpeace campaign against the use of Nuclear Energy in Jordan, 2013
[click to view]

A Jordanian environmental activist takes part in a protest against Jordan's nuclear program in front of the Ministry of Energy in Amman, June 29, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)
[click to view]

Anti-Nuclear Protests, Amman Several protests have erupted in recent years against Jordan's push to develop nuclear power, Al-Jazeera
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorChristophe Maroun - ICTA
Last update10/05/2017
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