The IAEA Board of Governors approved a plan to establish a nuclear fuel bank on Russian soil, marking a major step toward enacting a decades-old concept. This resolution authorizes the Director General to sign an agreement with Russia establishing a reserve of uranium that would be available to nations that face supply disruptions unrelated to technical or commercial reasons. The fuel bank concept is intended to help countries using or considering nuclear power to have confidence that they will be able to purchase nuclear fuel reliably and predictably.
The Russian plan calls for nations facing fuel supply cut-offs to apply to the Agency for access to the Russian-held reserve, to consist of 120 metric tons of low-enriched uranium. Once the Director General assesses that the applicant meets all the criteria - including having no nuclear safeguards concerns under review by the Board - he would ask Russia to deliver a batch of uranium from the reserve to St. Petersburg, where it would be transferred to the recipient nation. The Agency would be responsible for handling the financial transaction, and the receiving nation would pay prevailing market rates for the uranium. Because Russia has already produced the low-enriched uranium, establishment of the fuel bank could quickly follow approval of the deal by the Director General and Russian officials.
This development followed the Board´s June review of the Russian proposal. In addition, the June meeting heard two additional concepts, including: an IAEA-crafted plan that has received $150 million in financial pledges from the European Union, Kuwait, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and the Nuclear Threat Initiative; and a German plan to establish a multinational uranium enrichment facility.