AMMAN, Jordan--The head of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) said the nation's first nuclear reactor could be delayed by continued armed conflict in neighboring Syria.
In an exclusive interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Khaled Toukan said while he hoped a contract for construction of the reactor could be signed by early 2014, a delay was possible due to "Arab Spring developments and the instability in the region."
In late April, JAEC announced it had narrowed the bidding to build Jordan's first nuclear reactor to two rivals: Atmea, a bid backed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and France's Areva; and Atomstroyexport of Russia.
Toukan said: "I would say we will choose the technology supplier by the end of this year, with the latest being the first quarter of next year. We should narrow it down to one. In my mind, we should be able to sign by the beginning of 2014."
Plans call for the construction of a pressurized water reactor, scheduled to begin operation in 2020.
But he warned there were significant risks hanging over the process.
"This is a historic decision. We have three challenges, security, financing and instability in the region. The parliament will not sign it until they have really assessed and made sure none of these threats do exist. Suppose there is a military threat; I'm sure the government will slow it down for three to four years until things settle down," he said.
The situation in neighboring Syria has worsened in recent days with bombings and intensified fighting between the government of Bashar al-Assad and rebels.
Asked about concerns about safety of the nuclear reactor in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Toukan said: "In terms of core catcher (capabilities) and in terms of being generation 3 reactors, (the design of the reactor) satisfies international safety standard requirements."
He added that he planned to attend a ministerial conference to be held in Fukushima in December and co-hosted by the Japanese government and the International Atomic Energy Agency. He said he wanted to visit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant at that time and meet with local residents.
Because of concerns about nuclear plant safety, Toukan said the proposed site of the reactor was moved about 40 kilometers east from the original site on the outskirts of Amman. The new proposed site would be 100 kilometers from Amman.
"Historically, there has been no earthquakes registered in that area for the past 1,000 years," Toukan said. "We will have an emergency pool with four weeks of water (for cooling the reactor) and two weeks of water for operation. We will have a supply for at least six weeks of water."
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