Energy-poor Jordan said Monday it has picked two Russian firms to build and run its first nuclear power plant, which is expected to cost around $10 billion (7 billion euros).
"Russia's Rusatom Overseas will operate the plant as a strategic partner. Russia's Atomstroyexport will be the provider of the nuclear technology," Information Minister Mohammad Momani told reporters.
"The governments of Russia and Jordan will sign an agreement on the project, which will cost around $10 billion or maybe less."
The plant will include two 1,000-megawatt reactors, said Khaled Tukan, head of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, who attended the press conference.
"The project will be carried out in two stages. In the first two-year stage, detailed studies will be conducted and infrastructure will be built," Tukan said.
"In the second stage, the two sides will sign a contract to start constructing the plant. The Russians will contribute 49 percent to the cost of the plant, and Jordan will handle 51 percent."
The plant, to be completed in 2023, will be built in Amra, a desert area north of the capital Amman.
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"Jordan imports 97 percent of its energy needs. The country needs to take advantage of nuclear energy, which will also enhance national economy," Tukan said.
The desert kingdom, which has very limited resources, in August gave the go-ahead for a five-megawatt nuclear research reactor at the Jordan University for Sciences and Technology near the northern city of Irbid.
The Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute and Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. will built the research reactor, which is scheduled to become operational in 2016, officials have said.
Jordanian officials have said the reactor, the country's first, will cost $130 million and that South Korea has loaned $70 million.
With desert covering 92 percent of its territory, the kingdom is one of the world's 10 driest countries and wants to use atomic energy to fire desalination plants to overcome its crippling water shortage.
Jordan also wants to develop nuclear technology to meet its growing energy requirements.
But the technology remains deeply sensitive in a region where Israel has an undeclared monopoly on nuclear weapons.
Israel and the West have accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian programme, charges denied by Tehran.