According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), approximately 40 countries are interested in building their first nuclear power plant. If they proceed, all will need nuclear fuel, and they will get it either by buying it from an existing supplier or making it themselves.
The concern: The same enrichment technology for making peaceful nuclear fuel can also be used for developing weapons. Alarmed by the potential spread of nuclear weapons technology, NTI in 2006 made a bold proposal.
With Warren Buffett’s generous backing, NTI pledged $50 million to the IAEA as seed money for an international bank to supply nations with low-enriched uranium (LEU) to operate nuclear power reactors in case of supply disruption.
The proposal gained instant support, and The New York Times heralded it in an editorial titled “Mr. Buffett’s Excellent Idea.” Called a "breakthrough" and "trailblazing," the pledge helped unblock years of stagnation on the concept.
NTI’s pledge was conditioned on other nations providing $100 million in matching funds. The European Union, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States have all contributed.
IAEA member states voted in favor of the fuel bank in December 2010. The IAEA has worked with the Government of Kazakhstan, the world’s largest producer of uranium ore, to identify a safe and secure site to host the bank. The IAEA Board of Governors approved the host-state agreement in June 2015, and the host-state agreement was signed in Kazakhstan in August 2015. As the LEU bank is set up, countries interested in peaceful nuclear energy will have more assurances and more options for their energy programs.