Proposed nuclear fuel bank reaches go-ahead funding level, UN agency says

6 March 2009

A proposed nuclear fuel bank, part of a framework to put uranium enrichment under multinational control to reduce proliferation risks, has attracted enough promised funding to allow a go-ahead for its creation, the United Nations announced today.

A $10 million pledge from Kuwait pushed funding assurances over the $100 million level, with other donors including the United States, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates and Norway for the project, which would be taken forward by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei welcomed the achievement, saying that bold measures are vital to curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and eliminating them altogether.

Mr. ElBaradei has long proposed a system that would provide assurance of supply to States considering developing nuclear power and avoid the need for them to build their own nuclear fuel production capability.

The so-called front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, when fuel is enriched, as well as the back end, when spent fuel is reprocessed, provide points that pose proliferation risks because material can be diverted and used to produce weapons, the IAEA has explained.

The fuel bank is the cornerstone of Mr. ElBaradei’s proposal, as it would offer users of the system the insurance of guaranteed delivery if their regular supplies were interrupted.

Funding for the fuel reserve was kicked off in 2006 when the Nuclear Threat Initiative donated $50 million provided by United States billionaire Warren Buffet to the proposed fuel bank on condition that the contribution is matched by other pledges totalling $100 million.

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UN pushes ahead with multinational enrichment plan to prevent nuclear proliferation

Pushing ahead with efforts to set up a multinational framework for uranium enrichment to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and the possibility of their falling into the hands of terrorists, the United Nations atomic watchdog agency is exploring with Russia the possible establishment of an international enrichment centre in Siberia.