A $1bn deal between water-stressed Jordan and China to build a 220MW helium-cooled nuclear reactor is expected to be signed next year, according to a report by the Bloomberg agency.
Powering seawater desalination has been given as one of the intended functions of the proposed plant.
Khaled Toukan, the chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, said "advanced" talks had been held with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) with a view to beginning work next year and bringing the reactor online in 2025.
Toukan said Jordan was interested in using the plant for heat and electrical power. He said: "This reactor is very efficient for electric power generation and can be used for water desalination and serve chemical industries as well as oil refineries."
Jordan opened its first desalination plant in 2017.
Jordan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, with a per capital water supply at about 15% of what the World Bank defines as an adequate.
Growing population and increased agriculture in Jordan and neighbouring Israel have reduced the famous Jordan River (pictured) to a "fetid trickle", says a recent report in the Times of Israel, with 95% of its flow diverted since the 1960s.
China’s design of high-temperature, pebble-bed, helium reactors are designed to be used as an industrial heat source. Saudi Arabia has also expressed an interest in nuclear-powered desalination for its future water needs.
Jordan depends on foreign oil and gas for 96% of its energy. This dependence, which consumes a significant amount of its national income, has led it to plan investments of $15bn in renewable and nuclear energy.
This includes a particular interest in small modular reactors, a technology that is expected to become available in the 2020s, and which could reduce the cost and risk associated with nuclear energy.
In the past, Jordan has been in negotiation with Russia over building a $10bn VVER reactor, and last year, it entered into talks with US engineer Rolls-Royce over working together to set out the technical, safety, economic and financial requirements for constructing the country’s first SMR power station.
The JAEC has also held talks with companies in SMR makers in the US, Russia and South Korea.
Image: Almost all the water of the Jordan river is abstracted before it reaches the Dead SeaÂ (Jean Housen/Creative Commons)