Jordan, UK inking nuclear deal

Countries to sign memorandum of understanding to cement nuclear energy cooperation; chair of UK Atomic Energy Authority to visit kingdom.

Jordan and the United Kingdom are this week signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cement cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, the British Embassy in Amman said. Chairwoman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority Barbara Judge arrives in the kingdom on Saturday for a two-day visit to sign the MoU with her counterpart at the Jordan Nuclear Energy Commission. The deal is the latest in a series of agreements Jordan has signed with other countries to develop its nuclear energy program. An MoU was signed between Jordan and the United States last year. Jordan and France signed an agreement on nuclear cooperation last month, while similar deals are planned with Canada, South Korea and China. Amman has said that it is looking to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and diversify its energy sources. Jordan imports around 95 percent of its energy needs, and hopes to have its first nuclear plant operating by 2015, with nuclear energy constituting nearly a third of its energy production by 2030. "The energy situation here is critical because we don't have any natural resources," Dr. Montasir Hader, director of the Energy Center at the Jordan University of Science and Technology told The Media Line. "But whether nuclear energy will supply all of Jordan's needs is a question we have to study in more detail," he said. Hader said Jordan was reliant on outside assistance to build a nuclear program because Jordanians lacked the technical background to be self-sufficient. Jordan is one of several countries in the Middle East and North Africa that has shown an interest in the past couple of years in developing a nuclear program. Other countries pursuing a similar track include Algeria, Egypt, Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. While all of these countries insist their planned programs are for peaceful purpose of creating energy and developing research, analysts say this surge in interest is not divorced from regional strategic considerations, especially the threat from Iran. Iran is currently under international pressure to abandon its controversial nuclear program, because of concerns in the West that Teheran is secretly manufacturing nuclear weapons. Gulf countries are unhappy with the notion of a nuclear Iran in the neighborhood. The swell in regional nuclear programs could be a flexing of muscles, in order to mitigate Teheran's power of deterrence and to meet any future threats from the Islamic republic.