Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Is Siberia the Key to Resolving the Iranian Nuclear Crisis? Russia Opens an International Atomic Fuel Center

Posted by K.E. White on March 20, 2007

Russia has given the IAEA use of a Siberian enrichment facility. The site can now be used to grant nations fuel for their nuclear power plants.

Nations would then have enriched uranium needed to meet their energy needs, without developing their own enrichment facilities. 

Why the problem with countries having their own enrichment capabilities? Because once a nation gets its own enrichment facilities, there is nothing to stop a nation from developing their own nuclear armaments save 1) trust in the regime and 2) a pre-emptive strike.

This would solve a growing strain within the global non-proliferation regime. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty prohibits its members (which include Iran) from producing nuclear weapons. But the treaty also confers onto its members a right to other nuclear technology. 

The NPT has become almost paradoxical: banning the spread of nuclear weapons, but allowing any of its members to get right to the edge of developing these weapons legally. A member can then announce their intention to live, and in 6 months a country would have “legally” proliferated.

The Iranian nuclear crisis results from this very diplomatic gray-zone. Iran officially desires an independent nuclear program. But once Iran develops its own enriched uranium, it is only a few steps away from a weapons program. 

From Bloomberg News

The center will be registered by summer and be 10 percent owned by Kazakhstan and 90 percent by Russia, said Vladimir Servetnik, deputy chief executive officer of Tenex, Russia’s state-owned nuclear trader. Other potential partners include India, China, Japan, South Korea and South Africa.

“The ownership is structured so that Russia can offer parts of its stake to other interested parties,” Servetnik said.

Russia plans to sign an agreement with Kazakhstan soon which will allow the center to be registered as a company. The international nuclear center will be overseen by the IAEA, which will have a seat on the plant’s supervisory commission.

“The successful functioning of the center is only possible under the aegis of the IAEA,” Servetnik said.

Novosti adds these details:

A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is visiting the Angarsk chemical plant, the site of a uranium enrichment center, a senior IAEA official said Tuesday.

Last October, Russia and Kazakhstan, which holds 15% of the world’s uranium reserves, opened their first joint venture to enrich uranium in Angarsk, East Siberia.

The venture, which was part of Moscow’s non-proliferation initiative to create a network of enrichment centers under the UN nuclear watchdog’s supervision, will also be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste.

To learn more on the evolution of the international fuel bank proposal, read this Christian Science Monitor article.

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