The Impact of the State-Level Concept on “Newcomers”: A Case Study of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest reports indicate a growing number of states (newcomers) considering the deployment of nuclear energy programs. In developing nuclear infrastructure, newcomers have to employ the prevailing standards to deploy the nuclear program in a secure, safe, and sustainable manner. State-Level Concept (SLC) refers to a comprehensive approach that uses information about a state’s nuclear facilities and capabilities to implement safeguards within the scope of the state’s safeguards agreement. SLC focuses on strengthening the effectiveness and improving the efficiency of the safeguards system considering the State as whole. SLC has been implemented in 53 states, and the IAEA is encouraging other states to implement SLC. This paper investigates the influence of SLC on newcomers, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) as a case study. The investigation approaches SLC from the newcomer’s perspective, with the aim of determining critical factors impacting newcomers’ successful implementation of SLC. KSA has in force, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) with no Additional Protocol (AP), and Small Quantities Protocol (SQP) and has a small unit for the State System of Accounting for and Control of nuclear material (SSAC). Critical looks at State-level objectives and State-specific factors are employed to reconcile KSA’s outlook with the IAEA’s safeguards framework/agreements. The factors impacting SLC include sufficient cooperation between the IAEA and newcomer states, raised confidence in sensitive nuclear plant management, higher transparency of the civilian nuclear energy program, and improved capabilities of SSAC. For KSA to achieve its initial nuclear capacity (18 GWe) by 2032-40, it is recommended that KSA improve and expand its SSAC to adequately meet safeguard responsibilities. In addition, KSA is encouraged to sign the AP, which enables the IAEA to draw broader safeguard conclusions on nuclear materials and activities. This will foster transparency and long-term nuclear cooperation between KSA and developed states.