Saturday, January 20, 2007

A nuclear energy program?

King Abdullah has told Haaretz newspaper that Jordan is considering starting a peaceful nuclear energy program (thanks Batir). Obviously, this is causing quite a stir. Why would little old Jordan want to play with the big boys?

I have previously written a three part argument for the establishment of a nuclear energy program in Jordan (Parts I, II and III), so my feelings are clear. I am interested in the reactions to this. Most notable is the sneering sarcasm by Arab bloggers such as Nadeem and Issandr. These guys are no friends of Jordan, and so their negative attitude is not so surprising.

The US does not seem to object to the idea.

Now, I fully expect that such an ambition should be subject of lively debate. I just find the objections of our “Arab brethren” quite disturbing (although not really surprising). Issandr has this rambling diatribe:

The boy-king says Jordan has to even though it probably can’t afford to, because of those nasty Iranians and their Shia crescent. Which is probably a lot of bull— if Jordan gets a nuclear power station, it’s because men with little black briefcases will have toured Arab capitals trying to sell multi-billion dollar plants with the backing of their governments. If Jordan goes though with, you can bet its power station will be mostly funded by the US taxpayer thanks to the Bush administration pandering to the nuclear energy lobby.
I read the transcript and there is no linkage between the proposed program and Iran or the Shia crescent. Moreover, if the US decides to give us one for free (highly unlikely), well, they will do us more good that the likes of Issandr ever will.

As for Nadeem, he has this to offer:

Personally – I think that Jordan has been kissing American and Israeli ass for far too long to be denied the opportunity to develop (or be punished for creating) a national nuclear energy program. Seriously, how would it look to the Arab masses if even Jordan and Egypt’s sell-out governments are treated like Iran when it comes to such matters? Doing so would only create (or help solidify) the impression that whether Arab states cooperate with Zio-American imperialism or not, they'll still always be side-swiped by American-Israeli relations.
So, there should be benefits for maintaining good relationships with the west and Israel. I’m glad he sees that. Remind me again what Saddam (or Iraq) gained by pissing off the US.



At 9:51 PM, Anonymous Hamzeh N. said...

I think it's great that the king has talked about this, and I hope that it does get achieved in the near future.

I don't think we in Jordan should have any interest in producing nuclear weapons. What will we do with them? Absolutely nothing.

I think that Jordan should adopt a policy of opening up its facilities to any inspection to show the world that we are truely a peaceful nuclear nation in the future and that our program, if it gets going, is sponsored and endorsed by the entire international community and it is only meant for the benefit of the country, not the strife of others in cases of war.

Good job blogging about it in advance man!

At 1:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A typically cynical Jordanian had commented on the issue from behind his newspaper: I thought we already had a nuclear program! Even one that used to be for military purposes!
Aha, I said.
He said that in every house that was built after the liberation of Iraq there is Uranium, isn’t that what nuclear thingies are based upon. Some of those do not need light bulbs since the walls and pillars are glowing of radiation.

He also declared that if those cannot be helpful, cant we save the time and money and get a connection (3ere2!) from Demona under the future two seas canal!!.

We also need around 1.5 million work persons to help power the plant, they can cross east above the two seas canal. The Americans however will send us a dozen Homers (Simpson) for the smooth running of the plant in the early years and Khalaf is your uncle


At 8:35 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hamzeh: Thanks. I am sure that the project will be perfectly legal. As you said, what would we use nuclear weapons for anyway?

Mefleh: Cute. Tell me more about your uncle :)

At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgive me if I sound naïve! But I am pondering the premise of the argument that gives rights to some to own nuclear power for peaceful means as opposed to others who have the unchallenged rights to own nuclear power for whatever means. It claims an air of moral superiority that is demoralizing, to say the least. This argument reeks of the absurd premise that is echoed by advocates of colonialism, imperialism, "superioritism", egoism, you name it as you wish. Jules Harmand (1910 - an advocate of colonialism) best summarized this conviction by saying:
“The basic legitimation of conquest over native peoples is the conviction of our superiority, not merely our mechanical, economic, and military superiority, but our moral superiority. Our dignity rests on that quality, and it underlies our right to direct the rest of humanity.”

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Sounds almost Zionist. Historically, superiority has stemmed from economic and military power. The moral aspect is window dressing.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Historically, superiority has stemmed from economic and military power.

And where does that come from? Mana from heaven?

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Craig: I like you.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iraqi manna to be specific!

At 6:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Remind me again what Saddam (or Iraq) gained by pissing off the US."

I thought the Iraqi regime (Saddam) was the most pro-US in the region, but the time comes to end each tool: 1) The Shah of Iran, 2) Saddam, 3) Israel next? lol I doubt it

At 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Khalf

This an invitation for you to post your valuable articles in this site
Encourage free speech…

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

Hi All,

I think that Jordan stands a lot to gain by doing what no one in the MENA has done before: developing nuclear power AND being accountable to international standards.

The problem with Iran is not their desire to have nuclear power, but that they are not transparent in what they want to do with it. So I think that Jordan with nuclear power and fully engaged with the UN, USA, EU and so on, would be a great example to the world.

I think there is nothing to lose and much to gain for everyone. (Of course the financial question is important: how much will this cost? Jordan may have a lot of other things to spend money on that are more helpful.)

Also helpful: Jordan is not run by ayatolahs. And: Jordan has not recently inavded its neighbors. Folks in other parts of the world appreciate stuff like this.

PS: Heard about a reform of the Jordanian civil aviation laws. You think that will go anywhere Khalaf?

At 10:34 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hi Alex. I haven't been following civil aviation. What are the issues?

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a major problem with this proposition: it's easy to forget that Jordan is a kingdom - mamlaka. So what we are talking about is more toys, projects and, power, for the king. It has little to do with the public good, indeed it may easily (one could even argue most likely) play against the public's benefit.

I cant open your articles 1, 2 and 3 but this seems to be nothing but a white elephant. Jordan is too small for developing nuclear power to make sense. But the US is happy to give its favourite king some pet projects, especially when it provides attractive business opportunties for the US and Israel.

Why should any Jordanian buy into this nonsense?

At 11:24 PM, Anonymous alex said...

Hi Again,

It was just a short issue in the The Jordan Times, but there is apparently talk of revising the civil aviation rules. It was not detailed, but my impression was that this would allow private companies and multi-nationals to administer airports in JO.

I think aviation is a big issue for the country to be honest. It costs about 20-30% more to fly to the US from Amman than from Tel Aviv. Tell me how that makes sense given that the difference in the distance is almost nothing when compared to flying across the Atlantic.

Perhaps this is just the concern of a person who travels internationally a lot, but it also affects tourism and business.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Anon: Do you know how silly that sounds? No, we shouldn't have nuclear reactors because we have a KING. Also, we shouldn't build schools, universities, facories, roads or hospitals, because this contradicts your stereotype of what a kingdom should be like.

Alex: This is a very important issue. Nobody has every explained why travel to and from Jordan is so expensive. I always thought it was the monopoly imposed by having a relatively small market. I will keep my eyes opened.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Tallouza said...

In Jordan the national airline RJ controls most airport ground-handling services (passenger svcs [lounges for example], airplane svcs, cargo/postal svcs, etc). I heard that in 2010 ground-handling services at Jordan airports are expected to be liberalized. Introducing competition in these services would reduce the cost of air transport to and from Jordan. Liberalizing ground-handling would definitely lead to new investments and employment at the airports in question. Open skies coupled with similar liberalization programs are probably some of the best measures to be taken in driving the economic development of Jordan.
Tourism would probably be the big winner.

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh, yeah I guess it must sound silly if you are of different political outlook; but perhaps you should look deeper than your first impulse.

(1) If you develop a nuclear programme then you better be pretty damn confident of its governance and control. And if you still operate under feudal laws, then sorry to say i wouldnt be so confident.

The average minister doesnt last for much more than a semester; which doesnt help too much with ensuring strong institutions that can manage an education policy, let alone a nuclear program.

(2) Where is the public benefit in this versus the cost? (I would hope Jordan would not pursue this simply for the prospect of waving Jordan's flag in the nuclear club.) You argue that it is cheaper per KW but surely this is simplistic; if this is so globally corret, why not run your house on nuclear energy? Ah, its not worth it, you say, since you wont use so much electricity. Besides, you'd need a pretty big loan you say; and New York City nods its head at you. ("Dont worry, we're awash with cash and we'd love to lend billions to you, but your credit is not so hot, so we have to charge a premium." W jumps in and says he can lend a hand (would you take it?), as long as you use Halliburton.)

Ok Khalaf, I accept, you dont like the king argument; maybe it was a cheap shot, but it can be a consideration, and for me it would be. So tell us about a scale that makes sense - I am sure it's a consideration. Why is it that Japan costs double of the Czech Republic if the primary cost in the construction?

"With high fixed costs, unit electricity costs for nuclear plants fall substantially with increased output. It is vital for nuclear operators to achieve high plant availability and capacity factors, while strictly adhering to safety standards. Nuclear plants operate around the clock to achieve very low marginal and average costs." the December 2005 World Nuclear Association report The New Economics of Nuclear Power

"With no policy assistance, the first nuclear unit will have a levelized power cost of $47 to 71 per MWh, depending on the cases taken, whereas the CCGT and coal plants will be in the range $33 to $45 per MWh. However, a fourth and fifth nuclear plant, without FOAKE costs and assuming a 3% learning by doing improvement ([in Jordan?]), a 5-year construction period and no 3% risk premium on financing, will produce power at $34-36 per MWh, in other words fully competitive with coal and gas." The New Economics of Nuclear Power referring to U Chicago 2004 study

At 2:01 AM, Blogger EmGrace said...

Hey Khalaf,
much-needed and intriguing disussions above aside, I stopped by here hoping that you'd said something regarding Sajida Rishawi Atrous since I recieved an urgent action appeal from Amnesty International regarding Jordan (for the first time in a long time) about her case. If you'd email me, I could forward you the urgent action - I didn't want to paste the whole thing here - but I follow your blog regularly and I'd be interested in what you'd say about it.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Anon: As I said in earlier posts, were actually are using a lot less power than we should. Gas and bunker oil are much too expensive on the open market, and we are only getting away with this now because we got a good deal from the Egyptians. They will eventually bring the price of gas up closer to world costs.

You are right that small scale production will probably cost too much. We currently have about 1800 MW production capacity, of which the bunker fuel driven Hussein thermal plant provides 350 MW. The rest is natural gas. 2000 MW capacity will barely be enough to replace the marginally economic system we already have.

My position is not ideological, but practical. If the studies prove that it is not economically feasible for some reason, then it shouldn't be done. But I sincerely doubt that this will be the case.


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