x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE's call for nuclear fuel bank wins support

The idea for the bank was conceived by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a non-profit group working to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Askar Mussinov, the Kazakhstan ambassador to the UAE, outlines his country’s position to The National yesterday.
Askar Mussinov, the Kazakhstan ambassador to the UAE, outlines his country’s position to The National yesterday.

ABU DHABI // The UAE's call for the establishment of a nuclear fuel bank has been praised by Kazakhstan's ambassador.

The bank was first proposed in 2006 as a way of guaranteeing a steady supply of enriched fuel for countries that want nuclear power but do not have the capacity or desire to enrich uranium.

The UAE has supported the call for a fuel bank since 2008 and committed US$10 million (Dh36.7m) to its establishment.

In 2009, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, offered his country as its host.

Askar Mussinov, Kazakhstan's ambassador to the UAE, yesterday said calls by the UAE and others for a bank controlled by the UN nuclear regulator the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were instrumental to his country's plan to become the bank's host.

"Support from the international community to set this bank up is key and advocacy from the UAE and others was instrumental in its development," Mr Mussinov said.

"Kazakhstan and the UAE support each other in the IAEA and have a common strategy regarding nuclear non-proliferation," he said. "This sort of support strengthens our position and theirs."

During a state visit in February, President Nazarbayev and President Sheikh Khalifa noted the existing potential for greater cooperation in economic, trade, and investment spheres.

President Nazarbayev described the UAE as Kazakhstan's most important partner in the Arab and Muslim world.

The UAE has turned to atomic power to fuel its rapid development while diversifying its energy sources and reducing its growing carbon footprint.

"We welcome the steps taken towards the establishment of the IAEA fuel bank and encourage further efforts in this area," said Mr Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the IAEA in Vienna.

"The UAE contribution to the proposed fuel bank should provide incentives for other states to follow the UAE model to forego enrichment and rely exclusively on the international market in nuclear fuels," said Mr Kaabi.

The UAE has already signed agreements with France, Britain and the US to develop a network of fuel supply sources and ensure their programme has a secure feedstock, he added, but would rely on the fuel bank as a backup.

"The IAEA is expected to issue its final decision on the bank before the end of the year," Mr Mussinov said. "We are feeling positive about the outcome."

Mr Mussinov said the IAEA had been offered two potential sites, adding "the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in eastern Kazakhstan was chosen and it is a site which has been used for 50 years in nuclear industry work".

The nuclear fuel bank will be capable of storing up to 60 tonnes of enriched uranium, the state nuclear agency, Kazatomprom, said.

In May, the Kazakhstan government said the bank would be ready by the summer of 2013.

The idea for the bank was conceived by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a non-profit group working to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

The NTI, with backing from Warren Buffett, the billionaire American investor, has promised to donate another $50m if IAEA member contributions reach $100m.

amustafa@thenational.ae