How Israel Could Halt Jordan’s Nuclear Energy Ambitions

By now, it’s no secret to most that HM King Abdullah has publicly accused Israel for its “underhanded” attempts to halt Jordan’s nuclear energy program by pressuring the French and the South Koreans not to sell the country reactors. The King’s message to the Israelis, as voiced in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, has been quite straightforward. “[The Israelis must] mind their own business”.

One can safely assume that Israel is likely responsible for the US’s recent grumblings regarding Jordan’s nuclear ambitions, specifically when it comes to having the ability to produce its own nuclear fuel, which given the discovery of vasts uranium deposits, it can potentially do and will make the project feasible to implement in the long run. How far ahead Jordan is with regards to the nuclear program is a bit ambiguous, but judging by the constant announcements of new nuclear technology deals with foreign companies, as well as agreements with various nations, it’s same to assume the country is on the fast track. And with Khaled Toukan at the helm, I have no doubt that it will be an ambition realized – that is of course unless Israel and the US put an abrupt stop to it.

While I am not the biggest advocate of nuclear energy I do realize its vital role as part of the Kingdom’s energy mix in a country with a growing population and scarce resources. Moreover, mining uranium and producing nuclear energy would likely see Jordan become a major energy exporter in the region. Yet, in this region, energy and resources are, as they have always been, highly politicized, and for a country like Jordan, one can easily imagine the extent to which its energy policy can be influenced by, if not dictated by, foreign powers that include none other than Israel and the US.

One can easily look to Israel’s influence and control over water resources, some of which historically belong to Jordan. In other words, there is precedent. In the case of water, such control is dictated through physical occupation, but when it comes to energy, Israel’s control can extend beyond its own borders. In a region where the word nuclear conjures images of a nuke-crazy Iran, the only nuclear power in the region, also known as Israel, has a lot of leverage on the international stage as it continuously demonstrates. Countries that Jordan needs on board to realize its ambitions could easily shift given a moment’s notice, as would the private companies that provide the necessary technology and that Israel already has ties to, and thus some influence over. Jordan has a few options should one or two doors be closed to it, but Israel does have a way of closing too many.

Moreover, with the Israel-Jordanian diplomatic relationship declining steadily, to say nothing of King Abdullah’s call in 2006 for Israel to disarm its nuclear weapons, it would come as no surprise if Israel successfully halted Jordan’s nuclear energy ambitions, or, at the very least, denied it its right to produce its own fuel, thus exercising control over what Jordan is allowed to do with the technology. Israel will likely lean heavily on the Obama administration to pull in the reigns on the project, and for a Kingdom so greatly dependent on foreign aid, it is difficult to say “no” in the short run, even if it means paying a premium in the long run energy-wise.

It is undoubtedly amazing to see a country dictate its neighbor’s energy future and the future of its 6 million inhabitants. And while I hope Jordan finds success with this project, I suspect the dream may be short-lived, or at least incredibly limited and rendered unfeasible for Jordan. Call me a cynic, but various realities are what determine the outcome and they are all too well known. The first sign of which way the wind will blow for Jordan will probably come in the form of the US-Jordan agreement and what it will entail, i.e. what the US will allow Jordan to do when it comes to nuclear energy.

16 thoughts on “How Israel Could Halt Jordan’s Nuclear Energy Ambitions

  1. “It is undoubtedly amazing to see a country dictate its neighbor’s energy future and the future of its 6 million inhabitants”

    Actually what is more amazing is how a country that did not (and refuses to) sign the non-proliferation treaty NPT dictates what signatory countries should do !!!

  2. As soon as one even utters the words “Nuclear” and “Threat” in the same sentence first thought always go to IRAN, when in fact there is a growing nuclear power just next door.

    How talk about nuclear power when the basic forms of power are missing; while Israel pumps water from River Jordan as we speak, water that could prevent us from becoming the poorest country in the world in terms of water.

    With all do respect, when US and Israel play major roles in
    shaping Jordan’s policies, why would it be any different in terms of nuclear power?

    What is with the timing? There needs to be real power within the country to acquire nuclear power other wise it is like all other great concepts that drain the country’s resources because of bad timing, mal execution…

  3. What is ironic is that Jordan has the right to produce it’s own fuel under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, neither the US nor Israel can deny those rights, with specific emphasis on Israel who refuses to sign the treaty and expose it’s nuclear capabilities. I would say just make a new treaty for the Middle East considering that each Arab/Middle Eastern country get’s their own permissions regarding what they can do/can’t do with nuclear power.

    Jordan has all the means to go ahead with the nuclear program regardless of what the US and Israel think. South Korea and France will be more than willing to consent to Jordan’s needs without the US, though with the green light from the US everything will become much simpler, as some technology in French and South Korean reactors is in fact American and requires American consent for export. As a matter of fact, the first 5MW reactor has already been agreed on and inked with South Korea, and is set to be complete in 2015 in Jordan University and Science and Technology, the uni which I attend.

    Furthermore, it is a well known fact that Jordan is desperate for energy independence, 95% if not more of power produced in the Kingdom is imported. A nuclear Jordan will very much increase economic stability and will pave the path for achieving it’s water needs too, as the power is planned to be used for water desalination in Aqaba.

  4. Just for the sake of the argument, If and when Jordan “achieve” it’s nuclear ambition, Jordan will be more dependent on the west (French) or The east( South Korea) for nuclear technology , I say , it’s not only misguided and expensive policy to pursue , but a dangerous one, Jordan must concentrate on building renewable energy resources such as solar and thermal ,and we have plenty of this renewable clean source of energy , just imagine if every commercial company and home in Jordan were to be equipped with solar panels.

  5. @friend: yeah, i don’t think anyone has the courage to point that out to the world.

    @Yasmine: sorry, i ddin’t quite get your point on the timing issue?

    @Ayesh: valid point.

    @Yazan: i think the agreements Jordan inks today are based on its ability to mine its own uranium, which would make this feasible to begin with. in other words, pressure could be placed to render the process too expensive for a country like Jordan to afford.

    @The Free Jordanian: well Jordan is getting nuclear technology from these countries, so it’s not utterly dependent on them, to say nothing of the fact that to implement nuclear energy you need foreign expertise. second, while it is expensive, it will produce enough energy for us to export and earn additional revenue to cover the cost, to say nothing of the fact that those costs will balance out in the long run and are nothing compared to the cost of being energy deprived in 20-30 years when the population is double. lastly, nuclear energy is not being relied or depended on as the sole energy source for Jordan. It is part of an energy mix program where it only makes up (if i remember the number correctly) 30% of the country’s energy, with the rest being largely made up of solar energy, wind farms, oil shale, etc. I think we should also point out that alternative energy sources like solar, thermal and wind, are not cheap at all to say nothing of the fact that they have relatively low transfers, which means we’d have to cover ras il 3ein in solar panels to fuel half of jabal amman.

  6. Also, allow me to point to recent studies that show that Wind Energy might not be a clean source of energy after all, and might contribute to thermal pollution. Nuclear energy has its issues, but latest-generation nuclear energy just might be our best bet.

    I am not defending nuclear as the sole resource of energy, but instead, in the context of what Nas references, as a mix of solar, geothermal, oil shale, and nuclear.

    On “security threats”; the king references his plans of making our nuclear ambitions a public-private partnership, also stressing that once the private sector is involved, transparency is achieved big time (unlike the Iranian case), hence security becomes a non-issue. Is dependence on the west itself an internal security threat of some other dimension? I don’t think so. Especially because our dependence is in the form of need for expertise as well as core-technologies, as opposed to an essential dependence where we will need them to run the program for us.

  7. i am an advocate of alternative clean energy sources, including solar and wind.
    but our critic frineds always deliberately chose to forget that it is not “load based”.
    they can not sustain our daily use. the load is currently 2100 megawatts. it will be 4700MW in 2020.
    show me how can you meet that with solar or wind … bearing in mind that the biggest ever solar or wind station can not generate more than 250MW at best case scenario, and bearing in mind that the sun will not be blocked (by clouds) or the wind will not stop.
    look … love it or hate it, nuclear is the only clean answer to our own dilemma.

  8. I think Jordan should pursue this option with some time frames and who will be able to fund the project as a starter. I can not see another country sharing this technology with us unless it is for political reasons or otherwise for a share in the overall investment and being able to share a portion of the revenues that comes out of it on the long run given that will be able to export one way, shape or form of energy. However and with the current political climate within the region and the total arrogance of Isreal’s foreign policies and behaviour – Jordan may well seek to balance its relation with the US (aid) given the possibility of a strong regional alliances – Turkey comes in as a strong candidate I would say.

  9. @Nas: I meant the timing in which the country has proved its inablitiy to handle pretty important issues including a huge budget deficit-which we will par for eventually-, water problems and even education. Meanwhile, all the powers in the world will not be of use if not backed by good understanding and strategic planning.

  10. @Friend,

    ” the biggest ever solar or wind station can not generate more than 250MW at best case scenario ”

    there are solar systems being developed that can generate up to 500MW, but the initial cost is VERY high in addition to huge space requirements;

    a wind turbine can generate around 3MW each and can be used offshores and made in networks, also customized according to the area climate, note that leading manufacturers are companies like General Motors! & Vestas

    my question is the following: would investing in nuclear, solar or wind energy “now” reduce the cost of electricity, water and fuel for citizens in 2020?

    what concerns me is that the initial setup cost for any of the technologies above is higher than the cost of seting up power stations at the time being, meaning that it will take a loong time to get back whatever you invest if you assume that your return will be from citizens paying the same bill rates. I doubt any profit will be generated for the government before 2020. and by the time we reach 2020 all these technologies will be cheaper. so I would ask whoever is the decision maker here, did you look into the risk of taking this up?

    Think Dubai Metro, it is an awesome project, totally green, fast and affordable, I personally love it, but the running cost of the metro and the stations along the red line is high that the cheap ticket of 4Dhs is not breaking even for RTA though electricity is somewhat considered available and cheap. bare in mind that UAE can afford it, but do we have the cash?

  11. It is evident that the best energy source is and allways will be geothermal energy.
    I read the other day that there are two nuclear plants to be built in the Aqaba region. Doesn’t anybody know that Aqaba is situated on the rim. It is predicted that an earthquake 6.0-7.0 on the Richterscale is to occur before year 2025. Would somebody pls explain how the interest of the people should be concidered.
    There are multiple security issues involved in using nuclear power. On top of this I very much doubt that the economi involved in nuclear plants can be defended vs geothermal power.
    Jordan needs 128.000.000 cbm/hour of fresh water by year 2025. Does anybody know the volume of this amount?
    Geothermal energy extrackted with high power laser drilling is the only thing that makes sence.

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