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Jordan pressing ahead with nuclear programme

Jordan has drawn three bidders for its planned nuclear plant as companies vie for limited contracts in the post-Fukushima industry.

Jordan has shortlisted three companies to build its first nuclear reactor, an indication the global industry is moving ahead after the disaster at Japan's Fukushima power plant.

The kingdom has stuck with its plan to produce nuclear energy by 2020 amid widespread anti-nuclear protests, choosing Russia's Atomstroyexport, Canada's AECL and a consortium of France's Areva and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries last week as preferred bidders for the first piece of its multi billion-dollar civil nuclear programme.

"We will ask them to make some kind of adjustment for the reactors due to the Fukushima accident," said Dr Abdulhalim Wreikat, a commissioner at the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission.

Jordan will begin evaluating the bids this month, with a decision to come as soon as October. Each reactor is expected to cost from US$4 billion (Dh14.69bn) to $5bn.

The kingdom's eagerness to build a nuclear plant is a ray of hope for the industry, which has been closely monitoring how a widespread backlash will affect growth. Following the March tsunami and earthquake that triggered a partial meltdown and radiation contamination at Fukushima, nations including Germany and Italy have withdrawn their plans to revive or continue producing nuclear power.

"Companies need to rethink their corporate strategy, what's going to work best and where," said Ian Jackson, an associate fellow at Chatham House, a think tank in London.

"We all know it has changed because of Fukushima, but we're still not quite sure how it's changed."

Areva, the French nuclear energy giant 87 per cent owned by the government, has experienced post-Fukushima change, with a new chief executive named last week.

That was initially sparked by France's loss of the UAE nuclear contract to a South Korean consortium in 2009, raising questions about French competitiveness in securing contracts abroad.

Areva, which has secured a contract with Jordan to mine uranium and also hopes to build its first reactor as part of a consortium, is on a campaign to promote nuclear energy in spite of what it acknowledges could be slower growth.

"Despite Fukushima, the market fundamentals remain unchanged," said Luc Oursel, the newly installed chief executive of Areva. "There will be 9 billion inhabitants in the world in 2050 to whom we will have to supply more energy, as cheaply as possible, while limiting [carbon dioxide] emissions.

"Therefore, I remain optimistic about the future of the nuclear industry even if certain decisions to start building new reactors risk being delayed," Mr Oursel told the energy publication Enerpresse this week.

Buyers such as Jordan say they are paying more attention to safety measures in choosing potential contractors.

"A technology provider can't completely change its technology overnight because of what happened at Fukushima," said Paige Crewson, a lawyer specialising in nuclear energy at Baker Botts in Dubai.

ayee@thenational.ae

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