Developing countries block IAEA plans for n-fuel banks


Vienna : Developing countries Thursday effectively blocked plans by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for nuclear fuel banks that aim to keep countries from acquiring sensitive nuclear technology by offering them alternatives.

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The Vienna-based IAEA had asked member countries of its governing board to give the green light for fleshing out proposals to sway countries to buy nuclear fuel from abroad, by providing them with an insurance in case their supply is cut off for political reasons.

A joint statement by the developing countries in the board said: “The group is of the view that any proposal for the assurance of supply should not be designed in a way that discourages states from developing or expanding their capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle.”

This stance of the Group of 77 coalition of developing countries and the Non-Aligned Movement stalled the efforts of IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to make rapid progress on these concepts, which he first proposed in 2003.

The idea was to keep countries such as Iran from acquiring uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used not only for energy purposes, but also for making nuclear bomb material.

The 35 members of the board agreed only that the nuclear agency “may continue its consultations and discussions” to further work on the fuel bank proposals, according to diplomats at the meeting.

The IAEA tabled its fuel bank plan in May after enough pledges from countries had been collected for buying 60 to 90 tons of low-enriched uranium for the bank, enough to reload one 1000-megawatt reactor over three years.

In parallel, ElBaradei wanted to move ahead on a proposal under which Russia would produce and stock 120 tons of low-enriched uranium, to be also dispensed by the IAEA if needed.