NUCLEAR POWER

Multinational fuel bank reaches fundraising goal

Planners of a multinational nuclear-fuel bank have reached their $100 million fundraising goal, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced today.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative -- a U.S.-based nonproliferation organization -- said that if IAEA members could collectively contribute $100 million for a proposed low-enriched uranium stockpile, the initiative's backer, billionaire Warren Buffett, would contribute another $50 million.

Kuwait today committed the final $10 million donation, bringing funding to more than $157 million, including Buffett's contribution, the IAEA said.

The proposed fuel bank of last resort would allow countries to develop civilian nuclear programs without uranium-enrichment facilities. Uranium enrichment is needed for both commercial-grade and weapons-grade uranium, allowing civilian programs to screen military uses.

"A country's decision to rely on imported fuel rather than develop its own enrichment capacity may depend on whether there is a mechanism that guarantees an assured international supply of nuclear fuel on a nondiscriminatory, non-political basis to states that are meeting their non-proliferation obligations," NTI Vice President Laura Holgate said in a statement. "An IAEA/NTI fuel bank can help us achieve such a mechanism."

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There has been some grumbling from non-nuclear countries that the bank would limit their "sovereign right" under the Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and develop other nuclear technology. But countries that use the fuel bank will not have to relinquish their right to enrich uranium, according to NTI (Greenwire, March 5).

The IAEA board of governors still must vote to accept the money.

The IAEA said one possible way to address the issue of the right to enrich and reprocess uranium is to place all such facilities under multilateral control, beginning with the new ones.

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