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Promoting the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy

Sunday, September 26, 2010  
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Promoting the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy

First, the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In his April 2009 speech in Prague, President Obama called for building "a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation. That must be the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons, especially developing countries embarking on peaceful programs. And no approach will succeed if it's based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules."

A strong and efficient market for nuclear fuel is vital to securing carbon-free energy on a global basis. The United States continues to support expanded and reliable access to fuel supplies - working through the commercial marketplace - for peaceful nuclear programs. Providing assurances for nuclear fuel allows countries to have more confidence in the international fuel markets. Specifically, an assurance of the availability of fuel through IAEA mechanisms will empower governments to exercise their Article IV rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. A number of initiatives have already been undertaken and we applaud the positive decision the IAEA has reached on the fuel bank at Angarsk. The United States has down-blended 17.4 metric tons of highly enriched uranium into low enriched uranium to be held in reserve to support a fuel assurance mechanism.

We have also contributed $50 million to the IAEA to support an international fuel bank administered by the Agency. Taken together with pledges from the Nuclear Threat Initiative and other Member States, $150 million has been pledged for this purpose. This offer has been extended several times and presents Member States with an excellent opportunity to realize one of the founding objectives of the IAEA. But these resources will be at risk if we do not reach a decision soon.

It is now time to move beyond general discussion and debate of fuel bank principles. The United States, therefore, intends to work with other Member States to develop a common approach and seek adoption of a resolution approving an IAEA-administered fuel bank at the December Board of Governors meeting.

At home, the United States has secured loan guarantees for new nuclear power and fuel facility construction, established a Blue Ribbon Commission to develop recommendations for the long-term management and disposition of used fuel and high-level waste, and committed to a robust, science-based nuclear research and development effort.

Internationally, we are expanding our bilateral and multilateral technical cooperation and expanding our outreach to states pursuing nuclear power for the first time.

In June the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Steering Group met in Accra, Ghana and agreed unanimously on a new name - the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation - and a new Statement of Mission that will provide a broader scope and engender wider international participation. Working closely with the IAEA, the International Framework will provide advice on infrastructure development for nations expanding and developing nuclear power programs, as well as help to create international mechanisms to assure reliable access to nuclear fuel services.

As part of the U.S. commitment to support the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Secretary of State Clinton announced a new Peaceful Uses Initiative in May at the NPT Review Conference. This initiative will raise $100 million to expand support for new and underfunded IAEA projects in developing countries. These projects will immediately advance medical technology for human health, food security, and water resource management, as well as infrastructure for the safe and secure use of nuclear power.

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