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Jordan has unveiled a strategy to develop nuclear energy and lessen its dependence on fossil fuel.

The plan was unveiled this week (27 August) by the minister of higher education and scientific research, Khalid Touqan, at a meeting of the Supreme Committee for Nuclear Energy Strategy in Amman, Jordan.

King Abdullah II, who chaired the committee, said Jordan — a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — will become a regional model for the peaceful use of nuclear energy in line with international rules.

Jordan aims to open its first nuclear power station by 2015 and generate 30 per cent of its total energy using nuclear power by the end of 2030, said the committee.

Jordan currently generates most of its energy from fossil fuels, 95 per cent of which it imports from neighbouring Arab countries — at a cost of 20 per cent of its gross domestic product.

The National Nuclear Energy Strategy covers electricity production from uranium, processing nuclear waste, research and capacity building nuclear energy and securing funds for the project.

Ned Xoubi, chairman of the Nuclear Engineering Department at Jordan University of Science and Technology, told SciDev.Net that nuclear energy "is the best choice for Jordan" and that it will provide the energy to fulfil growing demands from water desalination and hydrogen production plants.

He said that nuclear energy would alleviate the burden that fuel currently places on the national budget.

Xoubi added that his university has established a nuclear engineering programme, starting in September this year to "enhance nuclear knowledge in Jordan".

The course's first graduates in 2011 will "help in the design, building and running of Jordan’s first nuclear power plant", he said, and will benefit from working with nuclear suppliers and contractors from developed nations.

The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission is currently carrying out a two-year feasibility study on nuclear power and desalination in cooperation with the IAEA, which should be ready next year.

Jordan is cooperating with Kazakhstan to develop its capability to mine uranium (see Jordan and Kazakhstan agree science cooperation).