Among the nations that contributed to the now $150 million fuel bank are Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, along with the United States, European Union and Norway. It would not be surprising if those Middle East nations and others from the region become beneficiaries of the UN nuclear fuel bank as a way of bringing a greater degree of balance and stability to the region.
So far, the international nuclear fuel bank is a grand idea that has moved toward reality with just glacial speed. Indeed, glaciers are melting faster than the U.N. nuclear fuel bank has been moving. From the time the fuel bank was proposed in 2006, it took four years to get the rest of the world to ante up and get the UN diplomats to put themselves into motion. If this were a television show, we’d label their top speed slow motion. Kazakhstan, which produces more uranium ore than any other nation, has agreed to serve as the world’s nuclear fuel banker, hosting the repository that will be heavily guarded.
At one time, those working on the project thought the U.N. nuclear fuel bank would be up and running this year. Now they are hoping for an Opening Day ribbon-cutting sometime in 2014. Maybe.
In December 2010, when the IAEA voted to begin the nuclear fuel bank, the NTI’s Nunn hailed the decision and warned of its urgency.
“This is a breakthrough in global cooperation to enable peaceful uses of nuclear energy while reducing the risks of proliferation and catastrophic terrorism,” said Nunn. “If every country interested in nuclear energy also chooses to pursue nuclear enrichment, the risk of proliferation of dangerous nuclear materials and weapons would grow beyond the tipping point.”
Exactly three years later, our global news media’s big eye is focused unblinkingly on Iran’s nuclear intentions. But we have lost sight of our peripheral but urgent nuclear efforts. Especially the nuclear fuel bank that may someday safeguard us from our next Iran.
Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service.