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Monday, January 17, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Proposed Jordan reactors would be contructed in quake-prone zone

WASHINGTON — The United States is examining the feasibility of a nuclear energy project in Jordan.


Officials said Jordan and the United States have been negotiating for the supply of up to four nuclear reactors to the Hashemite kingdom. They said the talks included such issues as uranium enrichment, site location and environmental impact.

"There are still a number of obstacles to clear before Jordan can begin construction on any largescale reactor, including determining its location, its cost, and what role, if any, the United States may play in providing technical assistance," a report by Congress said.

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The Congressional Research Service, in a report by analyst Jeremy Sharp, identified several concerns by Washington, Middle East Newsline reported. They included the determination that Jordan's southern and only coastline was too small for a reactor facility.

The prospect of building a nuclear energy reactor inland would also present difficulties. Officials cited the challenge of piping and pumping water to a power plant as well as earthquakes near the Dead Sea.

Already, Israel has warned against a Jordanian nuclear reactor built near the Dead Sea Rift, an area prone to earthquakes. Israel has asserted that an earthquake could generate a massive radiation fallout that could endanger its southern port of Eilat.

So far, Jordan has signed a nuclear accord with Britain, France, Russia and the United States. Four international companies have been competing for the contract to build the first energy reactor. They were identified as South Korea's Korea Electric Power Corp. France's Areva, Atomic Energy of Canada and Russia's Atomstroyexport.

Officials said Jordan has insisted the right to enrich uranium as part of its nuclear program. They said Washington has opposed this in a move that was holding up promises of U.S. funding.

"As such, the Obama administration has continued the Bush administration approach of seeking to limit the adoption of uranium enrichment technology among other countries in order to limit the potential spread of expertise or materials that could be used to build nuclear weapons," CRS, in a report titled "Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations," said. "On the other hand, the Jordanian government insists it has a right to enrich its own domestic uranium resources and officials have pledged to send uranium-ore deposits abroad for processing into nuclear fuels."

At this point, the Obama administration has insisted that Jordan sign the so-called Section 123 agreement, which would ban uranium enrichment. The United Arab Emirates has already agreed to this limitation while Jordan was seeking to draft a compromise.

"Although there is increased understanding of our view, the gap remains wide, but we are in ongoing talks," an official said. "We still have a long way ahead of us before reaching an accord."

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