Dr. Ayman Hawari, Commissioner for Nuclear Reactors, Jordan Atomic Energy Commission; Professor and Director of Nuclear Reactor Program, North Carolina State University

Jordan is at the beginning of an exciting stage of discovery in its nuclear energy market development. We speak to Ayman Hawari to learn more about Jordan’s Research and Test Reactor (JRTR) and the Subcritical Assembly (JSA).

By Heba Hashem

Q: What are the main differences between Jordan’s Research and Test Reactor (JRTR) and the Subcritical Assembly (JSA) in terms of features and applications?

A: The main physical difference between the JRTR and the JSA is that the JRTR represents a critical nuclear fission reactor system with power and operational characteristics that allow its utilization broadly in science and education, and to support industrial and medical applications. Alternatively, the JSA is a subcritical system that is inherently of negligible power relative to the JRTR, which limits its research capabilities and makes its primary utilization educational in nature.

Q: What is the current status of the JRTR and the JSA?

A: For the JRTR early and limited site works have been initiated. The construction permit awaits approval by the various regulatory entities in Jordan. Construction is expected to be completed within 3 years.

The JSA has been installed at Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) and its licensing is nearly finalized, which should allow its utilization in student training in the near future.

Q: How will the JRTR enable Jordanian nuclear students and engineers to train on operating the country’s future nuclear power plants?

A: As the JRTR will be an operating nuclear reactor, the students will be able to observe the physical phenomena and operational procedures of a fully functional nuclear reactor. Similar to what’s implemented at research reactors located on, e.g., the campuses of American universities, the students at JUST will be able to study the practical implementation of reactor physics and safety concepts. In addition, the students can learn reactor operations and possibly become licensed reactor operators.

Q: What factors led to the selection of the KAERI-Daewoo consortium to build the JRTR over Russian, Chinese and Argentine bidders?

A: The reactor offers of the various vendors were evaluated and categorized technically. Based on the technical evaluation and in combination with financial factors, JAEC’s administration selected the KAERI-Daewoo consortium to build the JRTR.

Q: Is the South Korean consortium going to make any improvements to the design of the HANARO heavy water reactor deployed in South Korea?

A: In comparison to HANARO, the JRTR represents a significantly different design. Therefore, it should not be viewed in the context of HANARO.

Q: Will the training opportunities on the JRTR be limited to students studying at the Nuclear Engineering Department of Jordan University for Science and Technology, or will they be open to non-enrolled engineers as well?

A: In general, the JRTR will be a multidisciplinary facility that is open to all students of engineering and science. In fact, its training and research mission could also cover disciplines in medicine, humanities, arts, etc.

In addition, the JRTR should be viewed as a national facility that is open to students and users from all Jordanian universities. As for areas related to nuclear power applications, the approach for personnel training using the JRTR will be determined by all the stake holders including JAEC, JUST, and possibly future electrical utility companies. It will adhere to the regulations set by the regulatory authorities and will follow international practices.

Certainly, the nuclear engineering students at JUST will be principal candidates to participate in the engineering and operations of the JRTR. In some countries reactor operator trainees can have varying technical backgrounds and educational levels. Therefore, various practices will be examined and the best approach for Jordan will be determined.