AMMAN -- Jordan and the US resumed talks over a stalled nuclear cooperation on Thursday, following a reported reversal in Washington's policy toward states' nuclear enrichment rights.
A US delegation was in Amman for a one-day visit on Thursday to reopen talks on a cooperation agreement that has been stalled for nearly three years due to Washington's reservations over Jordan's right to uranium enrichment.
According to US embassy in Amman spokesman Karl Duckworth, the delegation, headed by US State Department Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defence Ellen Tauscher, explored a nuclear trade pact with Amman as part of Washington's wider support for civil nuclear energy programmes in the region that meet "international standards for safety, security and non-proliferation".
Talks between the two countries fell apart in 2008 over the US' insistence that Jordan sign an agreement similar to the so-called 123 agreement reached between Washington and the UAE that same year, under which Abu Dhabi waived its right to uranium enrichment -- a condition Amman opposed.
Although the Kingdom's peaceful nuclear programme does not entail immediate plans for enrichment, energy officials have insisted that Jordan retain the right to utilise the country's strategic uranium reserves -- which various estimates place between 30,000-100,000 tonnes -- as fuel in the future.
According to US diplomatic sources, Washington eased the condition following opposition from several emerging nuclear states and amidst concerns that the ongoing delays in nuclear cooperation deals were harming US nuclear technology exports.
The US embassy in Amman denied any changes in policy regarding nuclear cooperation and proliferation.
The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) described the visit as a "positive step forward", expecting the two sides to enter accelerated talks leading to an agreement "within months".
"It seems that the US is viewing each country on a case-by-case basis, and we are confident that with this change in policy and the desire of both sides to reach an agreement, we will sign an agreement soon," JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan told The Jordan Times.
Although the lack of a nuclear cooperation agreement prevented US vendors from competing for the construction of the Kingdom's first nuclear reactor, with Amman set to select among three-short-listed firms next month, Jordan has not ruled out considering American technology for future reactors.
Jordan is currently vetting proposals by three manufacturers -- Canada's AECL, Russian AtomStroy Export and a French-Japanese consortium comprising Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and AREVA -- for the construction of a 1,000-megawatt reactor in the northern Governorate of Mafraq.
Also yesterday, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh met with Tauscher to discuss potential nuclear cooperation, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
© Jordan Times 2012