A new IAEA report on a multilateral framework for nuclear energy presents a range of options that seek to guarantee supplies of nuclear fuel while minimizing proliferation risks. IAEA Director General ElBaredei presented the report this week to the Agency's Board of Governors.
The 90-plus page report - entitled Possible New Framework for the Utilization of Nuclear Energy: Options for Assurance of Supply of Nuclear Fuel - addresses proposals put forward over the past two years by various States and institutions. Some proposals call for the creation of an actual or virtual reserve fuel bank of last resort, under IAEA auspices, for the assurance of supply of nuclear fuel. This bank would operate on the basis of apolitical and non-discriminatory non-proliferation criteria. Others call for conversion of a national facility into an international enrichment centre. Still others call for the construction of a new, multinational enrichment facility under IAEA control.
"We are looking these proposals and their associated legal, technical, financial and institutional aspects," Dr. ElBaradei said. "Trends clearly point to the need for developing a new multilateral framework for the nuclear fuel cycle. And it´s clear that an incremental approach, with multiple assurances in place, is the way to move forward."
Such a multilateral framework could best be achieved through establishing mechanisms that would:
- assure the supply of fuel for nuclear power plants,
- over time, convert enrichment and reprocessing facilities from national to multilateral operations, and
- limit future enrichment and reprocessing to multilateral operations.
Such a framework is voluntary and States are free to choose their fuel options - no rights of States would compromised.
The report comes at a time when more countries are expressing interest in nuclear power for electricity generation, to help meet rising energy demands. This would mean increased demand for fuel cycle services. It also means an increase in the potential proliferation risks created by the spread of sensitive nuclear technology, such as that used in uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel reprocessing.
In February 2005, the IAEA Director General issued a report on Multilateral Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle. In September 2006, the IAEA organized a Special Event during its annual General Conference on the subject. The latest report was submitted to the Board for its future consideration and discussion, including a decision on the report´s public release.