Morocco will be the third country to host the nuclear regulators' meeting, and the first in Africa, after it previously met in the US and Spain.
Rabat – This week, experts on nuclear security will arrive in Morocco for the International Regulator’s Conference on Nuclear Security in Marrakech. Although Morocco does not yet have nuclear power, the Moroccan Agency for Nuclear and Radiological Safety and Security (AMSSNuR), in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will host the conference October 1-4.
Although Morocco does not have nuclear weapons or power, the conference goes in line with Morocco’s plans for future nuclear energy use. While South Africa remains the only African country with a nuclear power station, Morocco is aspiring to develop nuclear facilities for better energy consumption.
Morocco’s plans for nuclear
Twelve years ago, Morocco developed its first nuclear facility. The research reactor (RR) MA-R1 is located at Centre d’Etudes Nucleaires de la Maamora (CENM), approximately 25 kilometers north of Rabat.
The RR’s “construction culminated with the successful completion of full power endurance testing on 6 September 2007,” according to IAEA. However, Morocco has not yet connected its nuclear facility to the electrical grid.
In its 2011 publication “Research Reactors in Africa,” the IAEA stated that some states with research reactors such as Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco “are seeking to use their experience as a stepping stone for a future nuclear power program for their people in order to take advantage of Africa’s vast uranium resources.”
In her 2018 article in the UN’s Africa Renewal Magazine, Laura Gil noted that Morocco, being one of the African countries currently considering nuclear power, “have already engaged with the IAEA to assess their readiness to embark on a nuclear program.”
Nuclear power in Morocco may be just around the corner, according to the general secretary of the Moroccan Radiation Protection Association (AMR), Abdelmajid Choukri. He mentioned in one of his works that the Moroccan government had announced, in January 2010, “plans for two 1000 MWe nuclear reactors to start operation eventually after 2020.”
To achieve the country’s plans, “Morocco has signed a cooperation agreement with the United States of America, the African Regional Co-operative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Energy (AFRA), as well as numerous treaties and conventions,” added Choukri.
Morocco is a net energy importer and is in need of alternative energy sources. In 2016 alone, Morocco consumed 31.64 terawatts in electricity.
According to Reuters, Moroccan officials intend to use the uranium extracted from the country’s huge phosphate deposits as “feedstock for the planned nuclear power plants.” Morocco accounts for measured phosphorite resources of 85,000 metric tons, nearly half the world’s phosphate reserves.
The third regulator’s conference
The conference in Marrakech will be the third such international event. In December 2012, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) organized the first conference on nuclear security.
The conference “was born from the need to organize an international event on nuclear and radiological security for and by Regulators, with a view to increasing the awareness of the importance of a comprehensive national regulatory security program.”
In 2016, the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council (CSN), hosted the second conference. The goal was to “promote international cooperation in nuclear security” and “enhance international nuclear security capacity building.”
According to the third conference’s organizers, the AMSSNuR is planning the event “given the relevance of the nuclear and radiological security globally and especially for the African continent.”
The conference’s prospectus indicates that “a broad range of experts and decision-makers in the area of nuclear security” will attend the event.