UN atomic watchdog approves nuclear fuel bank
The UN atomic watchdog on Friday voted to set up a nuclear fuel bank, under its auspices, to allow countries access to nuclear energy without risking the spread of atomic weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member governing board approved a United States-sponsored proposal for a 150-million-dollar (112-million-euro) fuel bank, with 28 countries in favour.
No country voted against the resolution, but six developing countries -- Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, South Africa, Tunisia and Venezuela -- abstained.
One country's delegation, Pakistan, chose to be absent when the vote was held in a gesture showing it was disassociating itself from the project.
The resolution was based on an original proposal by former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, but which ran into stiff resistance last year.
Developing nations saw it as a way for the existing western nuclear powers to curtail other countres' right to acquire and develop nuclear technology of their own for peaceful purposes.
The resolution stipulated that only countries whose supplies were halted for political reasons and which had a clean non-proliferation record would access to the bank.
But such conditions were rejected by Pakistan, one of only a handful of nations which refuse to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
"We are thus obliged to disassociate ourselves from such specific elements of the draft resolution," said Pakistan's ambassador Khurshid Anwar. Accordingly, the Pakistan delegation was absent when the vote was held.
Among those countries in favour, the EU said such a fuel reserve "can bring benefits for energy security and for non-proliferation, without distorting the existing well-functioning market."
Possessing the uranium-enriching technology used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants is a major proliferation concern because it can also be used to manufacture the fissile material for an atomic bomb.
The proponents of the fuel bank believe that such a mechanism will mean that the increasing number of nations interested in using nuclear power to meet their growing energy needs can still do so without having to possess the sensitive uranium-enrichment technology.
Earlier this week, Russia already announced that it had created the world's first such fuel bank in Angarsk.
The Rosatom state atomic energy corporation said the Siberian fuel reserve would have enough material to refuel two civilian nuclear power plants. It too will also operate under the auspices of the IAEA.
© 2010 AFP