Nazarbayev’s nuclear bank: form of nuclear non-proliferation
The International Low-enriched Uranium Bank (ILUB) opens in Kazakhstan on August 27th. The Bank will operate under control of the IAEA. Countries which have insufficient resources for providing the complete nuclear fuel cycle will be able to use the Bank’s potential, as well as countries which are going to develop their own nuclear production. Delegations from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, top officials of the nuclear Six – the USA, Russia, China, the UK, Germany, and France, and donating countries of the project – the EU, Norway, Kuwait, the UAE – will participate in the ceremony of signing an agreement between Kazakhstan and the IAEA. The biggest delegation will come from Washington. It will be headed by the aide to the Secretary of State, Thomas Countryman, who is responsible for the US efforts on nuclear security and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The US was the first to support the idea by Nursultan Nazarbayev to establish a nuclear fuel bank in Kazakhstan. It is connected with the fact that Kazakhstan is steadily fighting for the right to freedom from nuclear weapons. Today a result of the work is shutting down the Semipalatinsk test site; the country rejected the fourth-largest nuclear arsenal in the world and shut down the Aktau fast fission reactor. Moreover, Kazakhstan is a major producer of uranium in the world and has every opportunity to process high-enriched uranium into a low-enriched form. The country established the necessary structure on the basis of the former Semipalatinsk test site and the AO Ulbinsky metallurgical plant in the east of the country.
Preparing for storing nuclear fuel, Kazakhstan has regulated the legislative base which will enable it to provide strict control over exports of nuclear materials and double-purpose materials. According to the Director of the political scientific center ‘Sever-Yug’, Yulia Yakusheva, Astana has great experience in storage of nuclear fuel. In November 2010 the country completed a joint project with the US and the IAEA on transportation and permanent storage of a big volume of nuclear fuel, which was enough to build about 800 nuclear bombs.
The Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, Erlan Idrissov, commented on the upcoming event that the Low-enriched Uranium Bank was a new important instrument of the international community, which encouraged the establishment of a safer world. “I would like to thank the IAEA and our partners for effective cooperation in implementation of the project,” Idrisov said.
The idea of establishing a nuclear fuel bank was initiated by President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. It was the President’s reaction to the growing tension between Iran and the West. “Nursultan Nazarbayev began to talk about this at the end of the 2000s. The Bank is needed by the countries which provide peaceful nuclear programs and lack uranium for peaceful nuclear stations. They should have an opportunity to buy uranium for normal prices and without any political obstacles. For example, Iran could use the opportunity,” Leonid Gusev, the senior scientist of the Analytical Center of the IMI of the MGIMO, told Vestnik Kavkaza.
By the way, earlier the Kazakh side offered Iran enriched uranium to the level which is needed for the work of nuclear power stations. The analyst said that Russia also offered such a scheme. However, the former leadership of Iran didn’t react to these offers. Today President Hassan Rouhani could consider such an offer in the context of the recently signed agreement on the Iranian nuclear program. There is an offer about storing part of the Iranian nuclear resources in the Bank. Therefore, the Bank can be used for various purposes. Furthermore, some offers are being developed especially for North Korea. In general, all countries which provide peaceful nuclear programs can use the services of the Bank.
“The initiative by Astana means that Kazakhstan stands for a world which is free from nuclear weapons; it stands for only peaceful use of nuclear power. Such initiatives began to appear since the establishment of independent Kazakhstan in 1991,” Gusev noted. That’s why the importance of the initiative cannot be overestimated. In the context of the current growing confrontation between Russia and the West, the difficult situation in the Middle East, tightening of the control over nuclear materials and non-proliferation of nuclear technologies and military materials are very urgent tasks. And President Nazarbayev’s initiative perfectly matches the ideology of solving these topical problems.