A consortium led by the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and Daewoo Engineering and Construction has won a bid to build a small nuclear reactor at the Jordan University for Sciences and Technology by 2014. It will be the first time Korea has exported a nuclear reactor. The sale could help Korea get the contract to build power-generating reactors in Jordan in the future and open up other potential deals to sell experiment reactors to universities and research institutes around the world.
The 5 megawatt reactor will not be lighting up any homes. Instead, it will be used to conduct experiments and educate young nuclear engineers, an important function as Jordan attempts to wean itself off of imported oil and become more energy self-sufficient. Universities around the world have similar nuclear facilities. If you live near a major university that has a strong science and technology component, you probably live near a nuclear reactor, as I discovered while doing some work at a university near my home a few years back.
This is not the first time Koreans have been involved in building a nuclear facility in the Middle East. North Korea had been helping Jordan’s northern neighbor Syria build a secret nuclear facility in a remote part of the country until it was destroyed in an Israeli air raid in September of 2007. The facility, modeled after the Yongbyon facility North Korea has used to make nuclear material for its weapons programs, was being built with help from North Korean technicians.
Ironically enough, Korea’s first exported nuclear facility was supposed to have gone to North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework. South Korea was to provide two light water reactors (which does not produce significant amounts of weapons material) in North Korea in exchange for North Korea destroying its indigenous facilities.