AMMAN: The Jordanian Uranium Mining Company announced that its extraction plant had produced 20 kilos of yellowcake from 160 tons of uranium ore.
Mohammad Shunnaq, general manager of the state-owned JUMCO, said the factory would produce tens of kilograms of yellowcake from processing hundreds of tons of ore over the next few months.
He said Jordan had large uranium reserves and that its central area alone, about 80 km south of Amman, was home to around 42,000 metric tons of uranium oxide.
According to the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, Jordan has estimated conventional uranium reserves of 140,000 tons.
Shunnaq told Arab News that the extraction of uranium ore deposits, especially in the central region, was easily mined and cost-effective as they were less than 5 meters underground. He described the yellowcake as being of “excellent quality” with an average concentration of 150 ppm (parts per million).
Asked whether Jordan intended to produce large quantities of uranium oxide for commercial purposes, Shunnaq replied: “Yes, that is possible. We will first embark on a large-scale treatment of thousands of tons of uranium ores, conduct feasibility studies, and then evaluate the commercial aspect of such operations.”
The locally produced yellowcake will be used as fuel for the country’s nuclear power reactors.
He said the uranium exploration and extraction operations in the center, called the Central Jordan Uranium Project, were integral to the national nuclear program. It also covered the Nuclear Power Plant Project and the Nuclear Reactor Project for Research and Training.
“It is a complementary project, completely for peaceful purposes, aiming to produce electricity and desalinate seawater. All uranium operations in Jordan are well-coordinated with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
When asked if Jordan would carry out enrichment processing on the uranium yellowcake, he replied: “Jordan will send the yellowcake it produces abroad for the enrichment and then use it to fuel its nuclear reactors.”
In 2015, Jordan signed an agreement with Russia’s Rosatom to build a $10 billion nuclear power plant with a capacity of 2,000 megawatts. The agreement was aimed at constructing a two-unit power plant at Amra in the north by 2022.
But in May 2018, Jordan announced a plan for a small modular nuclear reactor with Russia, replacing the $10 billion plant deal signed in 2015 between the JAEC and Rosatom.
With Jordan's nuclear power plant facing criticism, from environmentalists and lawmakers who have slammed the slow progress in advancing the project, JAEC chairman Khaled Toukan said the commission had achieved “a lot so far despite the small budget.”
Toukan said Jordan was the only Arab country in the Levant region with a nuclear reactor with a capacity of 5 megawatts, stressing that it was a research reactor built with Jordanian expertise in the field.
He added that the focus in 2030 would be on small nuclear reactors for generating electricity, water desalination, and industrial purposes.