Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said on Saturday that a country like Jordan, where the oil bill drains 40 per cent of its budget, should seriously think about diversifying its energy sources and reducing its total reliance on foreign imports.
"If Jordan remains fully dependent on oil exports and its derivatives, a moment will come when its oil bill will outstrip the capacity of its budget to pay it off," he told a meeting with presidents and representatives of professional and labour associations.
The oil bill had soared to JD4 billion this year, he said, hugely straining a budget of about JD10 billion, a situation that made it incumbent to look for nuclear energy and diversify energy sources. He said the nuclear project to generate electricity, once put into implementation, would be the Kingdom's biggest venture in its history.
Ensour also told the meeting that atomic energy projects in different nations in the world are a controversial subject, adding that "we, in Jordan are not an exception, as we attach great importance to the public opinion and the citizens' convictions and recognise the activists, respect them and do not question their intent and national orientations." The prime minister said Jordan had not taken a final decision to proceed with the option of electricity generation from nuclear power, but had resolved to mull the matter over," noting that the government had received two offers from Russia and Japan and had two years to decide on either.
He said that during the next two years, the government will conduct studies, mainly on the site of the nuclear power plant, including a seismological study, while ensuring the location is remote from populated areas.
During the meeting, Jordan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Khaled Touqan reviewed the national atomic programme, which involves three projects: exploration of nuclear material, namely uranium, which is found in plentiful supplies in central and southern Jordan, raising human capacity to manage and run the reactor and building the nuclear facility. The meeting held at the ministry of political and parliamentary development, was part of a series in a dialogue with civil society institutions to forge a common perspective on energy and other national issues.
"We pin high hopes on the professional associations' heads to engage in a dialogue with union members who are in the vanguard of society so that the project will not be rejected without understanding the benefits it aspires to achieve and making sure that it is safe and economically efficient," added Ensour.