P. Kim, S. Chirayath, M. Fuhrmann, “Assessing Proliferation Risks in New Nuclear Energy Countries: The Case of Small Modular Reactors”, INMM/ESARDA Joint Annual Meeting, 22-26 May 2023, Vienna, Austria.
Several nuclear energy newcomer countries have become interested in small modular reactors (SMRs) as a nuclear energy source to meet growing electricity demand, given the heightened concerns about greenhouse gas emissions. While SMR technology lowers the threshold for newcomer countries, it can generate new uncertainties about future nuclear weapons proliferation risks. Therefore, this paper seeks to determine whether future SMR nuclear trade will contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation, and how the risks can be mitigated. This research uses the Bayesian network (BN) approach in conjunction with surveys of experts to assess nuclear proliferation risks when newcomer countries deploy SMRs. The newcomer countries to be assessed in this research include Algeria, Kenya, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Vietnam. In this study, we perform a comprehensive assessment of these newcomer countries in terms of risk environment, the country’s economic and grid capacity, the unique characteristics of SMRs, and spent nuclear fuel management plans. The central argument of this paper is that country-specific factors can be more important than SMR technology in shaping proliferation risks, but the implementation of a spent nuclear fuel retrieval system can minimize the risks in newcomer countries. By modeling the risks for future SMR deployment and clarifying the solutions, the findings of this research will provide recommendations for policymakers in the United States and abroad seeking to promote peaceful nuclear cooperation while reducing nuclear proliferation risks.