The Moroccan kingdom is taking firm steps to join the list of peaceful nuclear powers; it aims to generate electricity by relying on nuclear energy as an efficient energy source

Morocco charts its path to peaceful nuclear energy

PHOTO/FILE - Rafael Grossi, director general de la Organismo Internacional de Energía Atómica (OIEA)
photo_camera PHOTO/FILE - Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, announced that "Morocco is one of the next 13 future countries to produce nuclear energy as a source of electricity generation". 

In his remarks on the sidelines of the World Nuclear Fair in Paris, Grossi pointed out that it is necessary to double the number of nuclear reactors, currently around 400 in the world, in order to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations of the Paris Climate Agreement. "Currently 10 countries are in the decision-making stage for the construction of nuclear power plants and 17 others are in the evaluation phase, but 12 to 13 new nuclear powers will emerge in a few years' time," he added.

With economic ambition matched by political will, Morocco is moving steadily towards joining the group of peaceful nuclear powers. Having launched major investments in solar and wind energy, as well as in the production of green hydrogen, the North African country aims to meet clean energy needs away from polluting fossil sources, as part of its commitment to reduce environmental pollution. 

PHOTO/FILE - Imagen de central nuclear
PHOTO/FILE - Image of nuclear power plant

In this regard, international reports confirm Morocco's serious and responsible intention to engage in intensive cooperation with a view to strengthening its nuclear potential, both in terms of safety and technology. Indeed, the Kingdom of Morocco is expected to make practical progress towards the construction of a possible Moroccan nuclear reactor after 2030. 

This is because Morocco has considerable phosphate resources (70% of the world's phosphate) from which uranium is extracted, as well as being at the forefront in terms of global reserves of natural resources. This represents a major boost for Morocco in its move towards nuclear energy. 

Morocco's choice for nuclear energy is not a newly made decision, but since 2014, Rabat has started preparing the legal basis for the use of nuclear energy, gathering expertise and assessing its capacity to achieve this ambition.  

Morocco announced the creation of the first National Agency for "Nuclear and Radiological Safety", which will be responsible for establishing a radiological risk monitoring network throughout the country's territory and enforcing the requirements of Law 142-12, concerning nuclear and radiological safety in the North African country.  

In 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gave Morocco the green light to launch its peaceful nuclear programme, stating that 'the Kingdom meets the technical, administrative, legal, safety, security and measurement requirements and possesses the human qualifications, experience and scientific competence to launch peaceful nuclear energy programmes, in particular in the field of electricity production and seawater desalination'.

PHOTO/FILE - F谩brica de fertilizantes fosfatados en Marruecos
PHOTO/FILE - Phosphate fertiliser factory in Morocco

In September 2021, the Moroccan government and its Hungarian counterpart signed a memorandum of understanding for "cooperation in the field of training and education in the nuclear industry, on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy", with the aim of developing "cooperation programmes in training and practices, in particular for the development of basic and applied research, nuclear science and technology and the legal framework governing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy". 

It is worth noting that the Moroccan National Centre for Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology has become the first nuclear institution in Africa to cooperate with the IAEA. 

Addressing the House of Representatives last June, Morocco's Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, Leila Benali, reported that "the Ministry had conducted an assessment of the use of nuclear energy in electricity production, which had begun in 2015", preparing a report this year on the subject to give effect to the assessment's recommendations. 

Benali deduced that, "following Morocco's significant investment in renewable energy, it is time to move towards nuclear energy, in which it accumulated a considerable knowledge and experience base, as part of preparations for a national decision on electricity production using nuclear energy".

AFP/DANIEL LEAL OLIVAS - La ministra marroqu铆 de Transici贸n Energ茅tica y Desarrollo Sostenible, Leila Benali
AFP/DANIEL LEAL OLIVAS - Moroccan Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, Leila Benali

In October 2022, Morocco concluded an agreement with Russia on cooperation in the use of nuclear energy signed by the Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom. Under this agreement, Russia assists Morocco in establishing and improving nuclear energy infrastructure; as well as designing and building nuclear reactors. The Russian company accompanies Morocco in the exploration and development of uranium deposits, the study of the country's mineral resources and the training of personnel working in nuclear power plants. 

The agreement with Rosatom does not aim to build a nuclear power plant, but rather an experimental nuclear reactor similar to the pre-existing one on Moroccan territory in the Maamora forest. According to Moroccan experts, Morocco 'will never give up the option of switching to nuclear energy'. 

Morocco's interest in the nuclear option is not limited to renewable energies, but also touches on seawater desalination. Indeed, after signing an agreement last July with a Moroccan company, Rosatom is helping to implement seawater desalination projects, adopting nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in order to contribute to the realisation of Morocco's plan to provide 1.3 billion cubic metres of water per year. 

Morocco is committed to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In this regard, Morocco's permanent ambassador to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, warned of the dangers posed by gaps in the codification of nuclear law, given the complex challenges prevailing in a world characterised by wars, regional crises, climate change and delays in the implementation of the 2030 development agenda.

PHOTO/TWITTER/X/MAROC DIPLOMATIE/@MarocDiplomatie 鈥 Aziz Akhannouch y Vladimir Putin
PHOTO/TWITTER/X/MAROC DIPLOMATIE/@MarocDiplomatie 鈥 Aziz Akhannouch and Vladimir Putin

For his part, Khammar Murabet, former director general of the Moroccan Agency for Nuclear and Radiological Safety, explained that "Morocco can diversify energy sources by adopting an energy mix that incorporates nuclear energy, being an essential source of energy"; stressing that "the stake will be substantial in the next 30 to 40 years, as 80% of global electricity must have a reduced carbon footprint, compared to 32% marked at present, to ensure greater effectiveness in the fight against climate change.

Responding to an invitation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on Disarmament and International Security (First Committee) of the current 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Hilale took part in the panel discussion on 'Non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy'.

The Moroccan diplomat stressed that "non-compliance with the decisions of existing nuclear law would lead to the failure of the current legal arsenal and would probably fuel illicit aspirations through an increased risk of illicit use of nuclear energy, the creation of new sources of nuclear weapons and the proliferation of possible regional or even international crises". 

In the same vein, Hilale highlighted the implementation of several international nuclear security initiatives, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, the Nuclear Security Summits or the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, launched in Morocco in 2006.

Morocco, as a founding partner of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, has actively contributed to this initiative, including the adoption of the Declaration of Principles and its work as coordinator of the Implementation and Evaluation Group of the Action Group on Response and Mitigation, 2019-2021.

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