Lawmakers tour research nuclear reactor

The Jordan Research and Training Reactor is very advanced and multi-functional, with state-of-the-art safety systems, said Khalid Toukan, Chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).

Toukan made the remarks Thursday during a visit made by the Lower House of Parliament’s Energy and Mineral Resources Committee to look first hand at the reactor, located on the campus of the Jordan University for Science and Technology.

The reactor, which is one-of-a-kind in the Levant, uses the process of silicon irradiation to produce medical radioisotopes and for other industrial purposes, the chairman added. He said the JAEC plans to expand in the future by building neutron beamlines to conduct advanced nuclear research.

He pointed out that the campus has a nuclear reactor, a training and educational center, and units for manufacturing and producing radioisotopes. It also includes 11 hot cells and a special facility for the treatment of low and medium radioactive waste.

Toukan said around JD120 million were invested in this nuclear project, of those JD52 million were paid for by the Treasury, and the remaining amount was covered by a 30-year soft loan from South Korea to be paid after 10 years, at a rate of 2 percent.

On its applications, he said the reactor produces radioactive iodine which is used to diagnose and treat cancer patients in Jordan, adding that the commission plans to use it for treatments such as Lutetium and Technetium.

The reactor provides the Jordanian health sector with radioisotopes which were previously imported, undermining their benefit due to radioactive decay.

On uranium exploration and mining, Toukan stressed that exploratory studies have confirmed the existence of 42,000 tons of yellow cake in central Jordan, pointing out that the number was included on specialized international reports.

A group of Jordanian teams processed eight tons of uranium and were able to extract laboratory and experimental quantities of the yellow cake, which amounted to about a kilogram, he added.

The commission is currently conducting economic feasibility studies for building small standard nuclear reactors with a capacity of 100 megawatts for water desalination, electricity generation or hydrogen production.

He affirmed that this type of 4th generation reactor has advanced safety procedures, noting that financial investments are relatively low, compared to large reactors with a capacity of 1000 megawatts.

Head of the parliamentary committee Hussein Qaisi said the reactor is a national and strategic project that serves all scientific, research and training sectors, adding that it helps build national capabilities, and enhances nuclear technology’s infrastructure.

He urged the government to reconsider merging the JAEC with the Energy and Minerals Regulatory Commission as it would negatively affect the Jordanian peaceful nuclear project.