Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pennies in the Fuel Bank

emergency-bank The idea of a fuel bank to control the flow of uranium to countries contemplating domestic nuclear energy production has stumbled a bit.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and industrialized nations argue that a multilateral uranium-enrichment center would best meet growing global nuclear energy demand while dissuading nations from building proliferation-prone enrichment plants themselves.

But emerging nations, who fear "multinationalizing" control over the fuel cycle would curb their right to home-grown atomic energy for electricity, rejected a request by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to develop a detailed plan for approval in September.

The IAEA is likely right; however, an almost constant tension in international relations is that emerging nations – think India, for starters – feel pushed around by more developed nations. The goal behind the fuel bank is to limit proliferation opportunities, but a fair number of countries do not feel they represent a proliferation risk.

"(Developing nation) delegations kept saying they felt this plan would hamper their inalienable and sovereign right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop their own nuclear fuel cycle," said a Vienna diplomat in the closed-door gathering.

And presumably, some countries don’t like being lumped in with bad actors in being included in this arrangement. We’re reasonably sure this would include countries that are bad actors.

As with American or any other politics, one has to consider this bump part of the push-pull to get policy made – a snapshot in time, so to speak. The fuel bank, by virtue of presenting a way to keep nerves calm in the international community, remains a salient project and gives nuclear a profile in countries just emerging into the industrialized era. If such countries can commit to nuclear energy, and its renewable cousins, then climate change issues need not hold back progress. And that argues for the fuel bank.

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