Senior Shirin Lotfi attended a security colloquium in Amman, Jordan, while interning at the Center for Strategic Studies in Fall 2013.
Since Jordan is one of the poorest countries in terms of natural resources, their plan to build nuclear reactors to produce power drew a lot of attention from neighboring countries. Jordan and Israel share a land border of 238 kilometers, and both countries have been monitoring each other carefully. With nuclear technology, it is always in the best interest of neighboring countries to recognize that the development of such technology could be used to gain nuclear weapons. National security is not about being optimistic; it is about being self-interested and pragmatic. If Jordan appears to possess the ability to produce nuclear weapons, whether they do or not, then how would Israel respond? Does Israel have a reason to be suspicious of Jordan’s program?
For regions in the world that are rapidly developing and reliant on coal or oil imports, nuclear energy is an appealing option for addressing long term growth of demand in power. However, the potential for more states to develop nuclear weapons in the course of their energy production is a frightening possibility that must be addressed.
A case study released by the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission in June of 2010 aptly sums up the reasons why Jordan would like to develop nuclear energy: A growing energy demand, coupled with increasing prices of fossil fuels, compounded by the fact that Jordan is growing increasingly dependent on imported fuel. The last point is of particular concern because of its extraordinary circumstances; Jordan, as of 2010, imports 96% of its fossil fuels. The expense of importation costs the government over 25% of its national budget. Despite the stereotype of the “oil-rich Middle East,” Jordan is quite barren, with one exception: Uranium. There are estimated to be nearly 65,000 to 140,000 tons of Uranium underneath the Jordan soil. At least 65,000 tons of this Uranium was discovered as recently as 2007 and, seeing how the small country has almost no other natural resources, it is not surprising that the Kingdom sees its Uranium reserves as a blessing and an opportunity to move the country towards energy independence.
However, there is more to the issue than just energy independence. The Kingdom would like to use Jordan’s geographical location to their advantage, and become a hub for oil, gas, and electricity networks in the region. Oil and gas may not be in great supply in Jordan, however through nuclear power, electricity would become a newly abundant commodity that Jordan could supply to other countries. The Kingdom views its nuclear program as an opportunity to become an electricity exporter; with hopes to sell to Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Palestine. The country also intends to solve its growing water crisis by using a reactor to facilitate the operation of a desalinization plant. It has also been argued that there are numerous environmental benefits to be gained from the adoption of nuclear