International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Mohamed ElBaradei’s plans to internationalise the nuclear fuel cycle are progressing. He claimed on 7 November that he had won commitments from Russia and the USA to create an international nuclear fuel bank.

ElBaradei hopes such an international scheme would mean a guaranteed supply of fuel to countries with small nuclear power programmes, and that enrichment facilities for civilian power would never be used for weapons programmes.

In an obvious reference to Iranian proliferation concerns, ElBaradei explained: “Once you have that assured supply, you have taken away the justification for countries to say, ‘I’d like to make my own fuel,’ and that’s 80% of the problem.”

“Assurance of supply mechanism should be reliable, apolitical and based solely on non-proliferation criteria,” he added.

ElBaradei told the conference, organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, he was very close to establishing IAEA management of fuel cycle facilities within the next year.

It is thought that Russia and the USA could supply high-enriched uranium from their Cold War weapons programmes to the initiative and ElBaradei also suggested that Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing facilities could play a part.

Another part of the plan would be a five- to ten-year moratorium on construction of new uranium enrichment and plutonium separation facilities in order for the IAEA to establish better control on existing facilities.

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