EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 8, 2013

Column: U.N. nuclear fuel bank may save us from next Iran

If Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his parade of official proclaimers truly meant everything they’ve always said about pursuing a nuclear program only for peaceful energy and medical research purposes, then you’d figure Tehran’s elites should be bummed out by their bad timing.

It was back in 2010 that the International Atomic Energy Agency agreed unanimously to create an international nuclear fuel bank to provide non-nuclear nations with low-enriched uranium that could be used for peaceful energy and research programs, but not bomb-making.

The idea was forged back in 2006 by the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI’s co-chair, former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., solicited philanthropist Warren Buffett to contribute the first $50 million to fund the fuel bank, once other nations contributed another $100 million.

If Iran had genuinely wanted to pursue a nuclear program geared strictly toward peaceful ends, a U.N. nuclear fuel bank could have provided a smart and safe way to proceed. But of course, Iran’s goal was never just obtaining non-weapons grade uranium for energy production and research. It was always to be able to enrich its own uranium to weapons grade levels. Indeed, Iran has built a heavy-water reactor near Arak, which could be used to produce plutonium for bomb-making.

So Iran pursued its own nuclear program, with Russia providing its nuclear fuel. And the world’s leading nations, led by the United States, clamped on tough sanctions that have caused Iran’s citizens economic hardships. But Iran’s leaders endured the world’s sanctions because Iran was always working to either develop a nuclear bomb - or to develop the capacity for building their own nuclear bomb at a future time. The question now is whether Iran now wants to rejoin the world’s community of nations - to bring new life to Iranian citizens. And whether Iran will be willing to accept global inspections and safeguards to assure that it never uses its bomb-making capacity. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear ambitions have already destabilized the Middle East and created new uncertainties. And that is where the new U.N. international nuclear fuel bank can provide a lasting, peace-making contribution.

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