Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Multilateral groups should control nuclear fuel: IAEA


Making nuclear fuel should be taken out of the hands of individual nations and put into multilateral groups in order to keep countries from secretly developing atomic weapons, a UN report released on Tuesday said.

The report by a panel of experts to Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), comes ahead of a meeting in New York in May to review the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which gives the IAEA a mandate to verify that atomic programs in over 180 signatory nations are peaceful.

ElBaradei has warned that the NPT, in effect since 1970, has serious flaws at a time when the international community is worried about atomic programs in Iran and North Korea.

The world cannot continue allowing countries to develop the ability to make nuclear fuel that can also be used to make atomic bombs, ElBaradei told reporters in an interview in January.

"We just cannot continue business as usual that every country can build its own factories for separating plutonium or enriching uranium. Then we are really talking about 30, 40 countries sitting on the fence with a nuclear weapons capability that could be converted into a nuclear weapon in a matter of months," ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei wrote in the London newspaper Financial Times earlier this month that the NPT review meeting, which occurs every five years, was crucial.

The next meeting is in 2010, "but given current trends, we cannot afford to wait another five years," ElBaradei said.

The experts, headed by Bruno Pellaud, the former IAEA deputy director for safeguards, said that while individual nations should be able to get fuel for peaceful nuclear power programs, "the scenario of a further expansion of nuclear energy around the world might call for the development of a nuclear fuel cycle with stronger multilateral arrangements."

These would involve "developing and implementing international supply guarantees with IAEA participation," the report said.

The report proposed converting existing facilities, such as uranium enrichment plants, to so-called MNAs, or multilateral nuclear approaches.

The 103-page report also called for tighter export controls on nuclear technology.

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