Estimating Nuclear Proliferation and Security Risks in Emerging Markets Using Bayesian Belief Networks

Published in: Energy Policy, Volume 159 (December 2021), 112549. doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2021.112549

Posted on RAND.org on January 21, 2022

by Travis S. Carless, Kenneth Redus, Rachel Steratore

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An estimated 28 countries are interested in introducing nuclear power into their electric grid mix. The sudden influx of new nuclear power plants into emerging nuclear energy countries can present further nuclear proliferation and security risks. These risks can be even more prevalent for nations with political instability and limited resources to adequately support a robust nuclear regulatory infrastructure. This paper estimates the nuclear proliferation and security risks associated with the deployment of Generation III + nuclear power plants and Small Modular Reactors to emerging nuclear energy countries using expert judgment in conjunction with Bayesian Belief Networks. On average, Turkey is the most likely to divert nuclear material to develop a nuclear weapon (46% with an rsd of 0.50), divert civilian nuclear knowledge and technology for military use (38% with an rsd of 0.61), and to have their nuclear material stolen by non-state actors (39% with an rsd of 0.65). This is followed by Saudi Arabia at 38% (0.66 rsd), 39% (0.64 rsd), 32% (0.83 rsd), respectively. Reactor type has minimal impact on risk, while nations that pursue domestic enrichment and reprocessing has the greatest impact. In scenarios where emerging nuclear energy countries pursue domestic enrichment and reprocessing, the nuclear proliferation and security risks increase between 16% and 18%, on average. Lower-risk countries that engage in domestic enrichment and reprocessing can have comparable nuclear proliferation and security risks as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

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