Toward Transparency and Broader Safeguards Conclusion: A Closer Look at the Proposed Saudi’s Civilian Nuclear Power Program

Thaqal Alhuzaymi
Ayodeji Babatunde Alajo, Missouri University of Science and Technology

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The higher the transparency of any civilian nuclear power program, the higher the chance of attracting and securing the long-term foreign nuclear cooperation. For newcomer states, securing nuclear cooperation is essential for successful deployment and implementation of nuclear power program. Complying with an acceptable types of safeguards commitment/protocols plays a major role in increasing transparency. The determination of transparency primarily relies on the presence of sensitive nuclear isotopes–as defined under IAEA’s safeguards–with a nuclear facility. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is considering the deployment of civilian nuclear power program with a projected nuclear capacity ~18 gigawatt-electric (GWe) by 2032-40. The goals of this paper were the quantification of the sensitive nuclear isotopes (primarily plutonium) that will be produced within the prospective KSA nuclear facilities up to 2040 and the estimation of the uranium fuel requirements. Two scenarios were analyzed. Scenario-I: two reactors are operational started by 2022 and one reactors are added each year subsequently until the intended 11 reactors are deployed. Scenario-II is like Scenario-I, but only one reactor is added each two years subsequent to the deployment of the first 2 reactors in 2022. Simulation of EPR operation was performed from beginning of life to equilibrium cycle using Monte Carlo N-Particle (MCNP6) code. A 2-year cycle length was assumed.

The proposed KSA civilian nuclear power program would require 5766 and 4585 tonnes of cumulative uranium by 2040 for Scenario-I and Scenario-II respectively. The discharged fuel (assuming full power at 90% capacity factor) would contain 17.6 and 13 tonnes of cumulative 239Pu along with 21.4 and 15.9 tonnes of cumulative total plutonium by 2040 for Scenario-I and Scenario-II respectively. A primary concern related to transparency is the ability and readiness of KSA to handle these quantities of special nuclear material under internationally acceptable safeguards protocols as the planed nuclear power program expands. It’s recommended that KSA have AP in place well before 2040 to enable IAEA draw the broader safeguards conclusion which definitely will raise the confidence of the international community.