"We are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe," said NTI Co-Chairman Sam Nunn at the signing ceremony for the new IAEA low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel bank. "Today in Astana, Kazakhstan, we are accelerating our pace and running much faster."
Nunn hailed the latest milestone for the IAEA fuel bank, a key tool against nuclear proliferation, jumpstarted by NTI with a $50 million donation from NTI advisor Warren Buffett. At the ceremony, Nunn shared a message from Buffett, who congratulated IAEA and Kazakh officials on this latest step and urged swift action to make the fuel bank an operational reality. The bank is expected to be operational by the end of 2017, per The Astana Times.
Days before the signing ceremony, former Australian foreign minister and Asia Pacific Leadership Network convenor Gareth Evans explained the fuel bank's role in combating proliferation in an op-ed for Project Syndicate. "The new facility should once and for all remove the main excuse that has been advanced, sincerely or not, for building and maintaining homegrown enrichment capability," he wrote. "Good news on nuclear weapons has been sparse in recent years. The new Kazakh fuel bank is a significant step toward achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. Those who have worked to establish it deserve the world’s gratitude."
"The IAEA and its Member States have worked tirelessly for many years to realize the fruition of this common goal. The Government of Kazakhstan, by volunteering to host the LEU Bank, which was first conceived and funded by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, has further cemented its reputation as a world leader in promoting nonproliferation and nuclear security," said the White House in a statement marking the signing ceremony.
Reuters quoted Sam Nunn at this morning's event as saying, "This IAEA fuel bank will enable and encourage peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while reducing the risks of proliferation and reducing the risks of catastrophic terrorism." In an article about the fuel bank's role in "preventing a future Iran crisis," Arms Control Association expert Kingston Reif told Foreign Policy the fuel bank could "reduce the incentive that states might have on the basis of a fuel supply cutoff to develop their own enrichment and reprocessing."