Jordan is struggling more than most with high fuel prices. Despite government efforts to reduce oil subsidies, imported fuel still cost Amman $422m in 2007. And although getting rid of subsidies can shave millions off government expenditure, it also has a dramatic affect on locals who are already struggling with inflated fuel prices.
The government recognises this and is pressing ahead with a new energy plan that aims to reduce its reliance on imports by sourcing 10 per cent of power from renewable energy, exploiting its vast reserves of oil shale and developing nuclear energy.
Oil shale and nuclear power will provide the bulk of Jordan’s needs, and despite the potential 30 billion barrels of oil that could be derived from shale, nuclear technology should be invested in first.
Unlike commercial oil shale production, nuclear power technology is proven and countries such as France, the US and Russia are queuing up to sell their reactors to one of the region’s most stable countries.
Jordan has identified four possible sites for nuclear reactors and a further six sites where uranium deposits exist. Furthermore, it has good relations with the International Atomic Energy Agency, having signed up to all international non-proliferation agreements.
Key to the success of the $10bn nuclear energy programme is ensuring that Jordan has the technical expertise to manage a nuclear future. The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission has made a good start on this, but more professionals are needed to ensure the regulatory and licensing frameworks can be established.
Jordan has the opportunity to go from being an energy sector minnow dependent on imports from its neighbours, to a regional centre for nuclear expertise. It should seize the opportunity.
Special Report page 29