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IAEA says Morocco’s nuclear emergency response capability is solid; suggests refinements

7th November 2022

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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An expert review team of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported that Morocco has considerable capability regarding its emergency response and preparedness (EPR) for nuclear emergencies. The team completed its Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) mission late last week.

The IAEA review mission was sent to Morocco at the invitation of the country’s government. Hosted by the Moroccan Agency for Nuclear and Radiological Safety and Security (abbreviated to AMSSNuR in French), the team was composed of six members, from Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Sudan, the US and the IAEA itself. The mission leader was Health Canada Environmental and Radiation Health Services director-general Brian Ahier.

Morocco does not have a nuclear power plant (although it is considering building one), but the country’s National Centre for Nuclear Energy, Sciences and Technology (abbreviated to CNESTEN in French) operates a nuclear research reactor at the Maâmora Nuclear Research Centre, some 25 km northeast of the capital city of Rabat. The reactor operated by CNESTEN is a US-supplied MA-R1 TRIGA swimming pool type unit, TRIGA standing for Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics. (General Atomics being the company that designed and built the reactor; today it is generally better known for designing and building the Predator and Reaper uncrewed aerial vehicles rather than for its still active but now mainly fusion-focused nuclear business.) The country also has a network of nuclear medicine facilities.

“Overall, Morocco has a solid basis for their EPR arrangements,” reported Ahier. “This EPREV mission has identified a high level of capability throughout the country for field radiological emergency operations. The team recommended that Morocco finalise the documents detailing its emergency management system, which will help the country to strengthen its EPR arrangements and capabilities moving forward.”

Morocco was already a key actor regarding EPR in both the regional and international arenas. Since 2019, the country had operated the IAEA EPR Capacity Building Centre for Africa. Before that, in 2013, Morocco had hosted a full-scale IAEA ConvEx-3 exercise, code-named Bab Al Mahrib. A ConvEx-3 is the highest level and most complex emergency exercise run by the IAEA.

The IAEA team made a number of recommendations to strengthen even further an already strong system. These included the updating, to include a Moroccan nuclear and radiation sources and facilities-specific analysis, of the country’s National Hazard Assessment. Other recommendations were to bring the protection strategy into line with the latest IAEA safety standards; to set up an emergency classification system to permit prompt emergency identification, notification and response; and, to establish a radiation monitoring strategy to support protective action decision-making.

“The cooperation with the IAEA through the EPREV mission has given Morocco clarity on where to further develop our EPR capabilities,” stated AMSSNuR acting director Mounji Zniber. “We are pleased to be leaders in outreach and capacity building and look forward to continued cooperation with IAEA moving forward.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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