Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nuclear Safeguards and Supply Acts

Senators Lugar and Bayh, both from Indiana, have introduced a companion bill, S. 1138, to the International Fuel Bank bill introduced by Rep. Lantos on February 7, 2007. At the heart of the bills is a bargain: any country that forgoes uranium enrichment and reprocessing capabilities should be assured access to nuclear fuel at a reasonable cost. If enacted into law, the bills would provide $50 million for the establishment of the international nuclear fuel bank.

The principal issue if this ever becomes law, will be getting other countries in the world to go along with it, particularly when the United States continues to fail to fulfill its Article VI obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treat. Yes, remember that old thing? It's the bargain the U.S. and four other nuclear weapons states (Britain, China, France and Russia) struck with all of the world nuclear have-nots in 1968 in which they agreed to pursue in good faith negotiations for the elimination of their nuclear weapons. The other part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty bargain was that non-nuclear weapons countries agreed not to pursue nuclear weapons and in exchange they have the right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. (As somewhat of a side note, Charles Furgeson at the Council on Foreign Relations has a new report out on nuclear energy that I highly recommend.)

So, back to the bills. It is clear that Iran and a few other countries are clearly targets for the measures. Senator Lugar's said when he introduced S. 1138:

"The future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the larger nonproliferation system it supports is in doubt. The existing safeguards regime used by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has succeeded in forestalling nuclear weapons programs in the world's advanced industrial states, several of which were weighing the nuclear option 40 years ago. Unfortunately, this regime has failed to keep pace with the increase in the global availability of nuclear weapons technology, especially the technology and equipment for uranium enrichment and spent nuclear reactor fuel reprocessing, which can produce fissile material for weapons. Now the road to nuclear weapons can be traveled by determined countries with only a minimal industrial base. While the number of recognized nuclear weapon states has not dramatically increased over the years, the dangers of proliferation have become all too apparent as demonstrated by the A.Q. Khan network, the Iranian, North Korean, and Libyan examples."

Rep. Lantos also made clear he was targeting Iran when introduced his version of the bill, H.R. 885. He said: “If Iran’s nuclear program is truly peaceful, Tehran should welcome an opportunity to ensure a stable supply of nuclear fuel from an internationally-supported nuclear fuel bank located in a safe nation. If Iran is instead building a nuclear weapon, its nefarious intentions will be quickly exposed should it refuse to participate in this important project.”

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