Jane VaynmanJordan seeks nuclear energy program

A while ago I blogged about countries in the Middle East who have recently expressed interest in pursuing peaceful nuclear energy programs.

That list now also includes Jordan. Why should they go for nuclear energy? As King Abudllah II recently told Haaretz, they are keeping up with the Joneses.

But, the rules have changed on the nuclear subject throughout the whole region. Where I think Jordan was saying, “we’d like to have a nuclear-free zone in the area,” after this summer, everybody’s going for nuclear programs.

The Egyptians are looking for a nuclear program. The GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] are looking at one, and we are actually looking at nuclear power for peaceful and energy purposes. We’ve been discussing it with the West.

Jon Wolfsthal told AP that, “the sudden interest in nuclear programs is ‘clearly tied up in the political battle between Iran and the West.”

Two thoughts on explaining the surge in nuclear energy interests: On one hand, it may be a signal to Iran from an increasing number of Middle Eastern neighbors that they are not going to let it stay ahead for long. However, these Middle Eastern states are not willing to side with the US in accusing Iran of a weapons program. Rather, the pressure is more subtle. The fact that this announcement came out in Haaretz seems intentional and may suggest the anti-Iranian perspective. (The AP article notes it may also be an attempt to reasure Israel.)

On the other hand, I can see how Jordan’s announcement could have less to do with Iran and more to do with the neighborhood in general. If other countries decide to pursue nuclear energy programs, Jordan may move in that direction in order to keep up as a matter of prestige, even if pressuring Iran was not a top motivation.


  1. xxx

    Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar. While there are likely many factors at work, one big one might be that Jordan really wants an alternative means of producing energy. Those of us who think about Iran every day need to guard against assuming that everything that happens in the Middle East is about Iran.

  2. theDdoubleSstandard

    the comments i saw not only reflected the developement of the Iranian nuclear program but more importantly the geo-political-military implications of the Israeli nuclear program and Israeli nuclear weapons

    ~ theDdoubleSstandard

  3. Eric Hundman (History)

    I tend to agree with Wolfstal; the sudden desire to pursue a nuclear program is almost certainly not tied up exclusively in energy needs. For one, there are other sources of alternative energy that are easier to pursue and less of a hassle.

    Another possibility, Jane, is that Jordan may want to break into the nuclear fuel market before it becomes more restricted. With many of the nuclear supplier states pushing for even more stringent limits on fuel cycle activities, it makes sense that countries with the technical capability would want to get a foot in the door before it is slammed in their faces.

  4. Hass

    Countries are simply rushing to get a nuclear fuel cycle while they still can, before the US makes it impossible. Blaming Iran is simply convenient.

  5. thom cookes (History)

    Jordan doesn’t have any oil itself, and was recently screwed over its oil supply from Iraq (the subsidy it used to receive was recently dropped, which caused huge probs, and sent the price of fuel at the pumps rocketing)… it’s a huge domestic issue, so it’s likely that if King Abdullah is considering nuclear power, it’s in that context (domestic energy security), not to pursue weapons …

  6. xxx

    For the sake of clarity, it is important to understand that Jordan is talking about using nuclear reactors to generate electricity, not – as Mr. Hundman and Hass have suggested – developing technologies to enrich, fabricate or reprocess fuel (aka the fuel cycle). The difference is an important one and speaks to Jordan’s intentions (as well as the suggested link to Iranian activities). The details matter.

    Further, while nuclear power has many drawbacks, I’d challenge Mr. Hundman to tell us what the “other sources of alternative energy that are easier to pursue and less of a hassle” are. Nuclear generation is capable of playing a role in the generation of electricity – namely baseload generation – that other “alternatives” are not. Again, don’t misunderstand this to be an advertisement for nuclear energy. I am only challenging Mr. Hundman and others to think through the claim that the development of nuclear energy is always about something nefarious.

  7. Eric Hundman (History)

    xxx –

    Where did you see that Iran would only be pursuing nuclear reactors, rather than a full fuel cycle? King Abdullah, in Haaretz, was no more specific than this:

    ”…we are actually looking at nuclear power for peaceful and energy purposes.”

    That statement alone does not rule out fuel cycle activities, though if there is other information I’m unaware of I’d be interested to see it.

    Finally, I in no way intended to imply that “nuclear energy is always about something nefarious.” Pursuing nuclear power is, however, always a loaded decision and scrutinizing the reasons for Jordan’s change of heart is only reasonable. Given the very high initial expense of nuclear power plants and worries about fuel supply, waste disposal, and international scrutiny, Yemen likely has simpler, “easier” power-generating options.

  8. Nan

    nuclear water desalination is another factor for Jordan