HTRs will not help establish nuclear power in Jordan

Dr. Ali Ahmad and M. V. Ramana

MENACS member and Director of the American University of Beirut’s Energy Policy & Security Program, Dr. Ali Ahmad, co-authored this op-ed with M. V. Ramana in The Jordan Times on the challenges Jordan will face using High Temperature Reactors (HTRs) to meet its nuclear ambitions.

Chairman of Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), Khaled Toukan, has announced that the organisation is in “serious and advanced” talks with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to build a 220 megawatt High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTR) in the Kingdom. Viewed in light of earlier announcements by JAEC and its failure to realise any of its proposed plans since 2007, this pronouncement suggests that the Kingdom is downsizing its nuclear plans in a desperate bid to keep alive the possibility of building a nuclear plant in the country. But this effort is as misguided as prior ones and the best option is to stop investing any more effort, or money, into developing nuclear power.

Perhaps the most important earlier announcement worth recalling is from three years ago, when, amid much fanfare, Jordan signed an inter-governmental agreement with Russia to build two 1,000-megawatt reactors, at a total cost of $10 billion. The two reactors were “expected to be operational by 2022”. Reports suggested that Russia was to finance 50.1 per cent of the project and Jordan would find financing for the other half. But Jordan struggled to come up with its share.

Although there has been no official announcement to that effect, the project is likely dead. This is presumably why there is now talk of a smaller reactor.

The shift to smaller reactors could make the job of obtaining financing for the project easier because the total cost is lower. According to JAEC, the agreement for the HTR is expected to be worth $1 billion. The problem, though, is that it will also produce much less electricity. The reason that existing power reactors generally are much larger in terms of electricity generation capacity than their early prototypes is that small reactors are generally more expensive on a per unit basis and thus the electricity they produce is also costlier than electricity from larger reactors.

Continue reading on The Jordan Times.