* Under proposal, Jordan could mine but not process uranium
* To announce winner of bid for nuclear plants early in 2011
DUBAI, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Jordan expects to reach a compromise and sign a nuclear cooperation accord with the United States by the end of this year, although it will not forfeit its right to enrich uranium, an official said on Tuesday.
Over the past two years, Jordan’s reluctance to give up its right to enrich uranium in the future has prevented the kingdom from signing a cooperation pact called a 123 agreement with the United States, said Kamal Khdier, director of planning at Jordan’s Atomic Energy Commission.
Under the terms of a proposed U.S. accord, Jordan could mine the ore but not convert it into fuel.
“We received a positive gesture from the U.S. administration, and we are hoping to reach a compromise and sign the agreement by the end of this year,” said Khdier, on the sidelines of an industry event in Dubai.
“Our official strategic plan is not to enrich uranium now, but in the future this may change, so we will not give up our right to do so,” he said.
“In 10 to 20 years from now, the technology to enrich uranium may become more accessible and cheaper, and that’s the main reason why Jordan does not want to give up the right to enrich now,” he added.
Jordan has discovered deposits of uranium estimated to be around 65,000 tonnes so far, which it hopes to mine commercially for domestic use and export.
France's Areva CEPFi.PA signed a joint venture earlier this year to mine uranium in central Jordan under a 25-year concession. In May Jordan shortlisted Areva, Canada's AECL and Russia's Atomstroyexport in a competition to design two power plants with a total capacity of 2,000 megawatts, said Khdier.
“We are planning to announce the winner of the bid by the start of 2011 and the completion date will be by 2019-2020,” he added.
Last year, the UAE signed a nuclear cooperation accord that contained commitments barring the Gulf country from using U.S. technology to develop a nuclear weapon and from enriching uranium or reprocessing used nuclear fuel. It is obliged to import all fuel for its nuclear reactors.
U.S. negotiators were insisting on similar guarantees by Jordan that would oblige it to buy reactor fuel from the international market as a safeguard against its potential diversion for military uses.
Jordan has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with eight countries including France, China and Russia to develop a civilian nuclear programme and reduce its reliance on oil imports, which cost 20 percent of its gross domestic product.
“But we do need to sign this agreement with the U.S. to set the political scene, and a lot of material and equipment for the project will come from there,” Khdier said.
With a civilian nuclear programme in place, the country hopes to generate 30 percent of its energy needs through nuclear power by 2030.
Reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by Jane Baird
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