I will freely admit that I am an opponent of nuclear energy. For me this is a moral stance. But I know full well that the issue of nuclear energy can also be discussed on other levels, not just from a moral point of view.

I am also not an energy expert. But there are people who ARE experts and who work with governments around the world who would tell you that nuclear energy is simply not a good choice for the future.

There is a healthy public debate now raging in Jordan regarding the adoption of nuclear energy. At a recent debate held at the Landmark hotel in Amman, organized by the Jordanian consultancy Edama, the hall was packed with people. Judging from the applause the pro and against speakers were getting I can safely say that this debate was clearly won by the against camp.

The disconnect between the Jordan Nuclear Commission and the public was reflected in the presentation of the Commission’s speaker, who came across as engineer and scientist who almost blindly believes in new nuclear technology and how safe it is supposed to be.

In the media there have been examples of writers who describe the anti nuclear movement in Jordan as being a tool of a global/Zionist conspiracy that wants to deny Jordan access to nuclear technology. This generalization is very dangerous and totally unacceptable. There are good scientific, economic, social and environmental reasons to oppose nuclear energy anywhere. Just because Israel and the US raised issues about Jordan’s nuclear program, doesn’t make people in the “anti” camp traitors.

But what concerns me the most is the attitude of part of Jordan’s Twitter elite. For some people nuclear energy has become a “patriotic” issue that you just have to support. Others talk about it as an inevitable solution for our energy problems. If you mention to them solar, wind or geothermal energy they would say “yes we are for that as well, but we NEED nuclear too. Show me a country that produces all it’s energy through alternative sources”.

If you tell them that the Germans, Japanese and many other nations are opting out of nuclear in the next decade they would tell you “yeah but these are rich nations, Jordan CAN’T AFFORD the LUXURY of alternative energy!”.

“China, the UAEand Saudi Arabia are building nuclear plants,” they would tell you.

This mindset can be simply described as unimaginative and non-innovative.

Why follow China’s example. Why imitate the UAE or Saudi Arabia.

Why go for the outdated model of highly concentrated, time bomb like, polluting energy concept of the dead 20th Century, instead of imagining the possibilities of distributed, cleaner and simpler alternative energy solutions.

ou want a national challenge that inspires Jordanians? How about becoming a world leader in alternative energy?

It is a matter of mind set. A pro nuclear stance is the continuation of our typical import oriented thinking, which usually involves buying technology and expertise from the West and partnering with big corporations as a way to solve problems.

An anti nuclear stance opens the door for a new kind of thinking: in the face of those lobbies and “experts” who tell the world that alternative energy is not enough, we should say: we WILL make it work and we will prove the “experts” wrong.

And this is not a shot in the dark. The technology of alternative/renewable energy is developing quickly. It is faster to install. It can be manufactured locally.

It also would require investment in smart electrical grids (very exciting stuff, Google it). This would put Jordan in the lead and make our infrastructure future ready.

It would also force us to think about the wise use of energy and the efficiency of every lightbulb, machine appliance we use.

Nuclear has been shown to be on the decline in the countries who invented it. The ris of alternative energy will be fast.

I really hope that more of our educated and vocal citizens adopt a mindset of 21st century innovation. Nothing in human history is “inevitable”. Smart nations can shape their destinies.

In fact, in Jordan, we need a big national goal to rally around.

Half finished skyscrapers on the 6th circle in Amman, incomplete shopping malls in Abdali and hardly working special economic zones have failed to inspire our national imagination.

My son asked me the other day.. “Dad, is Jordan the best in the world at anything?”

I had no convincing answer.

“The French built us a nuclear plant” would not be an answer.

I would like to tell him in 10 years: “Although we are a small country mostly covered by desert, we are a world leader in solar, wind and geothermal energy.”

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6 responses to “A nuclear Jordan? From outdated logic to inspiring possibilities”

  1. abed_italy Avatar

    A country like Jordan could easily reach a 50% of energy from solar with a good planning, we are just 6 milion on a 90.000 km2 of sunny desert land! It’s incredible how a cloudy, cold and 80 milion people highly industrialized country like Germany is planning to reach a 20% from solar in few years and almost a 100% from renewable energy in 2050 and we are still talking about nuclear living in a country with sunny days almost 300 days a year and with not even 2% of Germany energy needs! I was for nuclear since a year ago, after Fukushima i read a lot of stuff and was surprised finding that a lot of nobel prizes in Physics are against nuclear energy! Fukusihima was the demonstration that nuclear energy is not safe enough, the reactor had no problems but the electric generators shut down was a huge problem and caused a disaster. And i think no people in the world are organized and good planners as japanese! So we should take it as a lesson and change our plans on energy.

  2. Mohammad Shamma Avatar
    Mohammad Shamma

    One note regarding the wave of “nuclear” patriotism. I moved from Jordan to British Columbia, Canada four years ago. Having sucked up an American model of what technologically developed countries should look like, I was disdainful at start from the state of development in western Canada.

    Year come year go, now I see how a province such as British Columbia was actually ahead of time when they banned nuclear energy long time ago. All electricity here is generated through renewable means, majorly through water damns. Actually, the provincial electricity company is called “Hydro”!

    I agree with Humeid that Jordan should not follow others blindly. It cannot adopt British Columbia’s model for obvious reasons, but it should not follow the U.S. blindly either. The government of Jordan better occupy the youth with solving this problem rather than ridiculous ethnic and political tensions. May be a similar approach should be adopted for solving the water shortage issues too.

  3. Osama Humeid Avatar
    Osama Humeid

    I totally agree. Google is another great example for their clean energy adaptation and huge investments in alternative energy projects. The power needed to light-up their data centers is enormous, it can actually power up a whole big city (like Amman). so if a private profit seeker company like google is seeking clean energy, then why not Jordan too!

    Answering your son’s question, Tell him We are the best in Mansaf and Jameed el Karaki ;)

  4. Maisa Avatar

    I support nuclear energy in Jordan on moral grounds too. I don’t want Jordanians to get killed defending rich corrupt gulf fiefdoms in return for oil handouts. And I don’t want Jordan polluted with tons of chemical waste generated by batteries used to capture solar/wind energy. And I don’t want Jordanians to go poor while rich countries get richer as we pay them higher and higher prices for energy. and I don’t want Jordanians to choke on harmful fossil fuel emissions. And I don’t want more Arabs to get killed by West just so they can secure their energy needs from Arab fossil fuel. There are far more moral arguments for nuclear energy in jordan than against.

  5. Dana Avatar

    Aaaah! This topic fills me with rage.

    How did agreeing to a nuclear plant seem like a good idea at any point? Especially considering all the failures of nuclear energy.

    For as far back as I can remember, all the houses my family moved into had solar panels to heat our water in the summer. Statements like ‘7awalna 3al shamsi’ (we’ve converted to solar [panels]) and ‘dokh min il shamsi’ (make sure you pump water/ use water that has been heated by the solar panels), are very popular among the tenants of our building. Tried, tested, and successful, the people of Jordan have interacted with alternative energy and liked the results. Why limit the exploration of this possibility?

    I can rant forever. In a nutshell: this nuclear plant is bad news.

  6. Hamed Avatar

    I totally agree .
    The cost of nuclear plant is higher than a solar power plant with same power output, why should we opt for the more expensive and high-risk option.