Remarks at Kazakhstan/IAEA Signing Ceremony for LEU Fuel Bank

Remarks at Kazakhstan/IAEA Signing Ceremony for LEU Fuel Bank

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Director General Amano, Minister Idrissov, Minister Shkolnik  –  I am honored to be here in Kazakhstan to personally witness this significant milestone in global cooperation to reduce nuclear risk.  This IAEA fuel bank will enable and encourage peaceful uses of nuclear energy while reducing the risks of proliferation and catastrophic terrorism.

NTI has been honored and excited to play a role in moving the fuel bank concept to a near-reality.  There are a few key players that I must thank – starting with NTI supporter and advisor Warren Buffett who enabled our financial commitment of $50 million to help jump-start this reserve.  Since authorizing me to make the pledge to the IAEA in 2006, Warren has not only been generous, but also very patient—and with a sense of humor.

I have a message from Warren I would like to briefly share:

“Sam, please express my deep appreciation to both President Nazarbayev and Director Amano as well as our other partners for their outstanding leadership in taking this big step today.  I look forward to the time soon when the fuel bank will become an operational reality. Please tell the decision-makers that I am a patient and long-term investor and that I know international agreements take time – but also tell them that I am 84 years old!”

I am grateful to the government of Kazakhstan for hosting this fuel bank and for your outstanding leadership in reducing nuclear dangers.  President Nazarbayev and Kazakhstan set an example for the world—and you do so again today.

Director General Amano, to you and the Board of Governors and the entire IAEA team, we thank you for your global leadership and for your tenacity and commitment to making this fuel bank a reality.

NTI is also grateful to the countries that provided support to match the NTI-Buffett contribution: the European Union, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States – represented today by two outstanding public servants – Ambassador George Krol and Tom Countryman of the U.S. State Department. I also want to recognize Andy Weber, formerly with the Department of Defense, who supported this important initiative. 

I am proud of our NTI team who worked tirelessly on this effort – including Charlie Curtis, Laura Holgate, Joan Rohlfing, Corey Hinderstein, and Andrew Bieniawski. 

We are all here today in Astana because we believe that locating the fuel bank in Kazakhstan is a cornerstone in developing a new and improved approach to reducing the risks associated with producing fuel for civil nuclear power.

Important steps have been taken to strengthen nuclear materials security and IAEA safeguards globally, but we all know that “we have miles to go before we sleep.”  While the Non-Proliferation Treaty has been very valuable to the world, we also know that there are several dangerous gaps.  The Treaty declares what many interpret as an unrestricted, sovereign right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  But this happens to be the same technology that can lead to weapons that can destroy God’s universe. This is a challenge to global leadership.

A few crucial questions that will help determine whether nuclear technology in the future will continue to benefit or threaten mankind:

  • Can we form a global consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear weapons as a vital contribution to preventing their proliferation — and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world?
  • Will we recognize on a global basis that weapons of mass destruction and disruption are no longer the monopolies of governments and that, in today’s world of terrorism, this is a huge danger to all states?
  • Can we find a path away from the current paralyzing mentality of nuclear “haves versus have-not” states?
  • Will we achieve a Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty that would put all fuel cycle facilities – in nuclear armed states as well as non-nuclear weapons states – under international safeguards and monitoring?
  • Will we ratify the CTBT and stop nuclear testing for all time? President Nazarbayev has shown enormous leadership in this area, since his people have suffered the effects of decades of nuclear testing. 
  • Can we develop international partnerships for all civil fuel cycle facilities, so that no state can unilaterally build and convert a peaceful facility into a military one?
  • Will the Iranian agreement be implemented and vigorously enforced so that it can be a model for international nonproliferation cooperation?

My message today – our biggest obstacles are political, not technical.  We are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe.  Today in Astana, Kazakhstan, we are accelerating our pace and running much faster.  This is a global race we must win.  Thank you.


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