Jordanian King Abdullah II accused Israel of disrupting and interfering with Jordan’s nuclear energy programme, in an exclusive interview with AFP.
The Hashemite Kingdom plans to invest $4.9 billion in a nuclear power plant that would constitute one third of the total power capacity generated in the country today.
“Strong opposition to Jordan’s nuclear energy programme is coming from Israel,” the king said.
“When we started going down the road of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, we approached some highly responsible countries to work with us. And pretty soon we realised that Israel was putting pressure on those countries to disrupt any cooperation with us,” he added.
Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
“A Jordanian delegation would approach a potential partner, and one week later an Israeli delegation would be there, asking our interlocutors not to support Jordan’s nuclear energy bid,” Abdullah told AFP during the interview at his palace.
Jordan, which imports 95% of its energy needs, is struggling to find alternatives to unstable Egyptian gas supplies, which normally cover 80% of the kingdom’s power production.
Since 2011, the pipeline supplying gas from Egypt to both Israel and Jordan has been attacked 14 times, with a consequent disruption of supplies.
With desert covering 92% of its territory, Jordan is one of the world’s 10 driest countries and wants to use atomic energy to power desalination plants to overcome its crippling water shortage.
“Nuclear energy will be the cheapest reliable way to desalinate water,” King Abdullah insisted.
A recent report issued by the World Nuclear Association – a consortium of industry leaders and nuclear power advocates – claimed the cost of the country’s first nuclear power plant might reach $9.8 billion. Decommissioning and financing costs were not included in the figure.
“Jordan will go only for the most secure, latest-generation reactor,” the monarch said in response to the criticism over high costs.
“These are far safer than earlier models, and have multiple features that help them withstand extreme conditions.”
The Jordanian ruler claimed that more plants are being set up worldwide as people’s energy needs are growing.
“The attacks on the Egyptian gas pipeline over the past two years have cost us already JD2.8 billion ($3.95bn). That could have paid for almost one reactor,” he added.
Jordan is currently weighing an offer by a consortium formed by French nuclear giant Areva and Japan’s Mitsubishi as well as a proposal by Russia’s Atomstroyexport to build the country’s first nuclear plant.
A joint venture between Jordan Energy Resources Incorporated and Areva discovered in June more than 20,000 tonnes of uranium in central Jordan.