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UAE Commits $10 Million to Nuclear Fuel Reserve Proposal

September Deadline Extended for Matching Donations

Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamad Al Kaabi

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei (left) receives the UAE´s fuel bank funding letter, presented on 1 August by Mr. Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE Special Representative for International Nuclear Cooperation. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently pledged $10 million towards a fuel bank proposal originally launched by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) in 2006. The UAE commitment was presented to IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on 1 August by Mr. Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE Special Representative for International Nuclear Cooperation. The UAE contribution comes on the heels of three previous financial donations made by NTI, backed by NTI advisor Warren Buffett, the United States and Norway.

"The Government of the United Arab Emirates would like to express its political and financial support for the proposed IAEA-administered international low-enriched uranium fuel bank as proposed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative," wrote UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in a letter addressed to Dr. ElBaradei.

The NTI plan calls for a dedicated low-enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile to be owned and administered by the IAEA. The bank would aim to provide States with assurances of nuclear fuel supply and would seek to address potential disruptions of fuel shipments for power reactors.

"I welcome the UAE´s contribution to the establishment of a nuclear fuel reserve under IAEA auspices," said Dr. ElBaradei. "This marks another important milestone towards supporting mechanisms for non-discriminatory, non-political assurances of supply of fuel for nuclear power plants."

The UAE funding announcement brings the total committed amount for a nuclear fuel bank to $115 million, leaving a remaining $35 million to be raised.

A deadline of September 2008 was set for the IAEA and its Member States to raise $100 million to trigger a $50 million NTI contribution. This deadline has been extended by an additional year, at the request of the Director General, and now stands at September 2009.

"The UAE is committed to building support for an international consensus on an IAEA nuclear fuel reserve. We will engage in building broad international support and funding for the initiative," said Mr. Al Kaabi.

He also noted the UAE´s commitment to encourage States in exercise of their sovereign choice to rely on the international market in nuclear fuels, backed up by supplier´s commitments and an IAEA fuel bank, to meet their needs for nuclear fuel for power reactors.

"As a newcomer to nuclear energy issues, the UAE´s recently-published Policy on the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy commits it to pursuing its fuel options internationally, backed up by an IAEA nuclear fuel bank. In this context, the UAE encourages other States to support the IAEA´s initiatives," added Mr. Al Kaabi. He also noted that the UAE´s financial and political support for developing a network of multilateral nuclear fuel assurances is consistent with this policy.

Previous contributions for the NTI fuel bank plan include:

  • An initial $50 million donation made by NTI advisor Warren Buffett in September 2006, which was contingent on one or more states contributing an additional $100 million in funding or an equivalent value of low enriched uranium to establish the reserve. Buffett´s donation also called for the matching $100 million commitment to be made by September 2008, but the deadline has now been extended;


  • A December 2007 funding allocation of $50 million made by the United States; and


  • A $5 million pledge announced by Norway in February 2008.

Background

The NTI proposal of an LEU fuel bank to be placed under IAEA auspices is one among several multilateral nuclear approaches currently under consideration, including one by the Russian Federation to set up an LEU reserve under IAEA auspices in Russia. Matters of the fuel bank´s location, organization, and conditions for access are left to the Agency and its Member States to decide upon.