Morocco’s Partnership with Russia: Nuclear-Powered Desalination Plants Near Canary Islands

2023-10-02 08:00:00

A few weeks before the deadly earthquake of September 8, Morocco and Russia reaffirmed their desire to install desalination plants using nuclear energy, 400 kilometers from the Canary coast. The idea had already worried the Canarian authorities in 1999 who had mobilized to ask Morocco not to use nuclear power in the Tan-Tan area. The authorities of the archipelago believed that the kingdom did not have the industrial know-how for this type of process, reports El Confidencial.

The Tan-Tan desalination unit was to be installed in cooperation with China and was to be equipped with a type (NHR)−10 reactor, with a power of 10 megawatts (MW) and a production capacity 8,000 cubic meters of fresh water per day. “If the Moroccan authorities were to make a request concerning this sector, it is clear that extremely strict conditions would be established, precise standards in terms of nuclear security and subject to the approval of the competent services and authorities”, declared in 1999, Chris Patten of the European Commission, responding to a question from Canary MEP Isidoro Sánchez.

Read: Seawater desalination: Morocco is banking on nuclear power

But two new developments that occurred this year could shake things up. This concerns the partnership between Morocco and Russia and the earthquake of September 8. The Moroccan company Water and Energy Solutions and the Russian public company Rosatom based in Moscow have signed an agreement for the installation of 12 desalination plants, a few kilometers from the Canary Islands. At the same time, Israel also offered Morocco its desalination technology using nuclear energy “if France does not really wish to cooperate in this area for fear of the reaction from Algiers”, announced the vice-president of the Chamber Israeli-Moroccan trade.

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Since 2015, the Minister of Energy Transition, Leïla Benali, has informed Parliament that her department is studying the possibilities of using nuclear power to produce electricity. A reflection committee on nuclear energy and seawater desalination (CRED) was set up in 2009 and produced a report approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In 2016, the body authorized Morocco to launch its peaceful nuclear program, ensuring that it meets all the conditions and has the human resources and scientific expertise in the field. An IAEA delegation was on a mission to the kingdom last November.

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