The Government of Norway has pledged financial and political support for an IAEA-administered international uranium fuel bank initiative borne out of a 2006 proposal by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). The $5 million Norwegian donation is in support of an initial $50 million contribution made by NTI advisor Warren Buffet and a recent US funding allocation of $50 million to establish an IAEA reserve of low-enriched uranium for use as fuel in power reactors to generate electricity. The Norwegian contribution was announced at an international disarmament conference in Oslo. The IAEA has long been a supporter of mechanisms that may help Member States to meet increasing demand for nuclear power while at the same time strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
With $105 million currently allocated for the plan, a remaining $45 million needs to be raised to reach the plan´s stated target of $150 million. The Norwegian financial commitment is the first non-US contribution put towards the NTI plan.
"I welcome Norway´s generous contribution to the establishment of a nuclear fuel reserve under IAEA auspices," said IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, who attended the conference and also gave a presentation on nuclear disarmament. "This is an important first step towards establishing an equitable multilateral framework for the nuclear fuel cycle that provides assurances against supply disruptions and strengthens the nuclear non-proliferation regime."
Potential global expansion of nuclear energy and efforts to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime has made establishing multinational control of the fuel cycle a hot topic in recent years. Providing States with assurances of supply would address potential disruptions of fuel shipment based on political grounds unrelated to non-proliferation.
"Norway is committed to building support for an international consensus on practical steps to support global non-proliferation and disarmament goals," said Norway´s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Store. "This nuclear fuel reserve is one such concrete and effective step in this direction. We will engage in building broad international support and funding for the initiative."
The NTI proposal of a low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel bank 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. The NTI plan calls for a dedicated LEU stockpile to be owned and administered by the Agency. Matters of the fuel bank´s location, organization, and conditions for access are left to the Agency and its Member States to decide upon.
In addition to closing the remaining financial gap, the Agency has been requested to take the necessary actions to approve the establishment of the LEU reserve.
Entitled Achieving the Vision of a World Free of Nuclear Weapons, the disarmament conference took place in Oslo from 26-27 February and was hosted by the government of Norway. NTI, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority provided additional conference support.
A German delegation gave a presentation on its multilateral proposal for an international uranium enrichment facility to the Agency earlier this month. In addition to the NTI, Russian and German proposals, nine other plans regarding assurance of supply and creation of fuel cycle centres have been outlined in recent years.