'Jordan cited Japan over nuke plant site near fault line'

Wikileaks: According to 2009 US Embassy cable, Amman tried to ease Israeli concerns over earthquake risk to a planned reactor near Aqaba.

March 16, 2011 19:18
2 minute read.
Eilat, with Jordanian Aqaba in the background.

Eilat and Aqaba 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

BELGRADE - Japan was an example cited by Jordanian nuclear officials to calm past Israeli concerns about Jordan's plan to build its first 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant near an earthquake fault line, according to a US diplomatic cable from 2009.

According to the US Embassy cable, Amman attempted to ease Israeli concerns about the reactor and its initially proposed location near the Red Sea port city of Aqaba by inviting Israeli nuclear experts to meet their Jordanian counterparts.

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One of the areas of Israeli concern was the danger earthquakes could pose to the future reactor and the impact such a geological disaster could in turn have on Israel. They were referring to a proposed site near Aqaba. Israel also has its own nuclear plant built near a faultline at Dimona, which dates back half a century.

"The Israeli delegation ... expressed concerns about the site selection of Aqaba being near a fault line, and the Israeli geologist gave a presentation on seismic issues on the Israeli side of the Rift Valley," according to the cable, obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by Reuters.

"The Jordanians responded that Japan also has earthquake problems but still builds nuclear power plants, which the Israelis acknowledged as true but also extremely costly," the cable continued.

"The Jordanians then assured their Israeli counterparts that the winds blow southwest, not northwest towards Israel."

According to an Israeli official who briefed US officials about the delegation's visit "the meeting revealed that the Jordanians did not have a good understanding yet of seismology, environmental issues, or financial requirements."

Jordan has since shifted the proposed location of the nuclear reactor from near Aqaba to a site 45 km northeast of the capital Amman. Jordan's Atomic Energy Commission has also extended the deadline for three companies pre-selected to bid for the reactor technology to the end of August to allow them to adjust plans in view of the change in location.

Another US diplomatic cable from 2009 said the government of Jordan (GOJ) had signed memoranda agreements on nuclear energy cooperation with Canada, France, the United States, Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom and others.

"Despite a flurry of activity, there is little clarity on which partners the GOJ hopes to seriously engage, raising concerns within the diplomatic community about how well thought out the GOJ's approach to developing nuclear energy is."

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