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Special Event in September: Assurances of Nuclear Supply and Non-Proliferation

Fuel rods used to power nuclear reactors

A multinational nuclear fuel bank that guarantees reliable fuel supplies is among the proposals to be discussed at the IAEA Special Event in September. (Photo Credit: Cogema)

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A new framework to strengthen controls over access to sensitive nuclear technology - uranium enrichment and plutonium separation - will be the focus of a special event 19-21 September 2006, attended by Ministers, other high level dignitaries and experts at the IAEA´s General Conference in Vienna.

With sensitive nuclear technology in "too many hands", the Special Event will examine options to bring facilities capable of producing weapon-usable nuclear material under multinational control. "With some 35-40 countries ´in the know´, the margin of security under the current non-proliferation regime has become too slim for comfort," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has said.

Held over two days, the Special Event will outline a new framework to facilitate peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while limiting the further spread of nuclear weapon related technologies. High-level delegations from the Agency´s 140 Member States are expected to attend.

"It is time to limit the processing of weapons-usable material (separated plutonium and high-enriched uranium) in civilian nuclear programmes, as well as the production of new material through reprocessing and enrichment, by agreeing to restrict these operations exclusively to facilities under multinational control," Dr. ElBaradei said.

"These limitations would need to be accompanied by proper rules of transparency and, above all, by an assurance that legitimate users could get their supplies."

A nuclear "fuel bank" where the IAEA administers a nuclear fuel reserve - is among proposals to be discussed during the Special Event. It would enable the Agency to act as a guarantor for the supply of fissile material to civilian nuclear users.

"The importance of this step is that, by providing reliable access to fuel at competitive market prices, we remove the incentive or justification for countries to develop indigenous fuel cycle capabilities. In so doing, we could go a long way towards addressing current concerns about the dissemination of sensitive fuel cycle technologies," Dr. ElBaradei said.

Both the US and Russia have announced their willingness to make nuclear material available for a fuel bank, under such a scheme. An IAEA administered fuel bank was a key proposal made by an Expert Group in 2005, tasked with finding options to improves controls over fuel enrichment, reprocessing, spent fuel repositories and spent fuel storage.

The Special Event is being held instead of the Scientific Forum at the Agency´s upcoming General Conference. The programme includes sessions on:

  • Frameworks for Nuclear Energy Security
  • Frameworks for Assurances of Supply: Institutional Perspectives
  • Frameworks for Assurances of Supply: Technological and Legal Arrangements
  • Conclusions, Findings & Future Directions.

See announcements under Story Resources for full details.