Jordan and Japan have signed a nuclear cooperation deal, potentially boosting the hand of a French—Japanese consortium bidding to build the Arab kingdom’s first nuclear plant.

Atomic Energy Commission chief Khaled Toukan said on Friday the agreement sets the stage for exploring and exploiting Jordan’s uranium reserves.

He said Japan would also assist in the construction and operation of a local reactor and in studies on radioisotopes and radiation.

Jordan wants to build a nuclear plant by 2019 to meet its growing energy needs and reduce its energy bill, which consumes about 20 percent of its annual budget.

Amman has shortlisted a French—Japanese consortium, a Canadian and a Russian company to build the plant. Bids will be invited within a year.

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