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Expert Group Releases Findings on Multilateral Nuclear Approaches

Press Briefing after the Expert Group Meeting

Dr. Bruno Pellaud (centre) talking to the press after the presentation of the expert group's findings. (Photo credit: D. Calma/IAEA)

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An international Expert Group has released the findings of its extensive look at the world's civil nuclear fuel cycle, citing five approaches to strengthen controls over sensitive nuclear materials and technologies of proliferation concern. At a press briefing in Vienna today, Mr. Bruno Pellaud, the Group's Chairman and former Head of IAEA Safeguards, said multilateral approaches are "setting the nuclear agenda" and urged concerted action among governments.

"Such approaches are needed and worth pursuing, on both security and economic grounds," he said, in summing up the Group's consensus. “A joint nuclear facility with multinational staff puts all participants under a greater scrutiny from peers and partners, a fact that strengthens non-proliferation and security…Moreover, they have the potential to facilitate the continued use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." He noted that multilateral approaches already are followed in Europe, for example, and said they merit close consideration in South Asia and other regions.

The Group's report -- Multilateral Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle -- was commissioned by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei in June 2004, following his suggestion that wide dissemination of the most proliferation sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle could be the "Achilles’ heel" of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The report outlines five approaches to strengthen controls over fuel enrichment, reprocessing, spent fuel repositories and spent fuel storage. They are:

  1. Reinforcing existing commercial market mechanisms on a case-by-case basis through long-term contracts and transparent suppliers’ arrangements with government backing. Examples would be: fuel leasing and fuel take-back offers, commercial offers to store and dispose of spent fuel, as well as commercial fuel banks;
  2. Developing and implementing international supply guarantees with IAEA participation. Different models should be investigated, notably with the IAEA as guarantor of service supplies, e.g. as administrator of a fuel bank;
  3. Promoting voluntary conversion of existing facilities to multilateral nuclear approaches MNA), and pursuing them as confidence-building measures, with the participation of NPT non-nuclear- weapon States and nuclear-weapon States, and non-NPT States;
  4. Creating, through voluntary agreements and contracts, multinational, and in particular regional, MNAs for new facilities based on joint ownership, drawing rights or co-management for front-end and back-end nuclear facilities, such as uranium enrichment; fuel reprocessing; disposal and storage of spent fuel (and combinations thereof). Integrated nuclear power parks would also serve this objective; and
  5. The scenario of a further expansion of nuclear energy around the world might call for the development of a nuclear fuel cycle with stronger multilateral arrangements - by region or by continent - and for broader cooperation, involving the IAEA and the international community.

The Expert Group included representatives from 26 countries who examined the nuclear fuel cycle and multinational approaches at meetings convened during a seven month period. The Group's report has been sent to the IAEA's 138 Member States and will be more widely circulated for discussion, including to the May 2005 Review Conference of 189 States party to the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). See Story Resources for more information and background.