Cablegate: Nuclear Fuel Banks - Launching a Listening Campaign


DE RUEHC #5122 2262108
P 142050Z AUG 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. 09 UNVIE 301
B. 09 STATE 76708

1. (U) This is an ACTION REQUEST: Please see para 10.


2. (SBU) Since 2004, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Secretariat has promoted the concept of multilateral nuclear fuel assurances. This concept is intended to strengthen the international nuclear fuel market and thereby remove an incentive for states to develop indigenous uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing capacity. Since the IAEA produced a set of recommendations on this issue in 2005, a number of states associated with the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) and Group of 77 (G-77) have criticized this concept due to suspicions that it is an attempt to strip them of the right to the fullest possible access to peaceful nuclear technology. The past few years have seen an impasse featuring entrenched rhetoric about fuel cycle rights.

3. (SBU) A step forward was taken at the June 2009 meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors (BOG), at which the BOG considered two concrete nuclear fuel bank proposals. For the first time, nonaligned states moved beyond rhetoric to raise specific concerns regarding the actual implementation of an international nuclear fuel bank. To maintain this positive momentum, Washington recommends an engagement campaign focused on listening to specific implementation concerns from the most skeptical states.


4. (U) In 2004, IAEA Director General ElBaradei tasked an Expert Group to study the feasibility of "multilateral nuclear approaches" as a means of addressing the potential spread of uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technologies (ENR). These technologies are considered sensitive since, in addition to producing fuel for civil nuclear reactors, they can also be misused to produce weapons-useable material. Released in 2005 as IAEA document INFCIRC/640, the Expert Group's near-term recommendations called for (1) reinforcing the existing commercial market of fuel cycle services and (2) developing and implementing international supply guarantees of fuel cycle services, with the IAEA as a guarantor. (COMMENT: Among others, the Expert Group included participants from Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, India, Malaysia, South Africa, and the United States. END COMMENT.) Upon these recommendations, IAEA Member States have developed about a dozen complementary fuel assurance proposals designed to bolster the international fuel market and to remove one incentive for states to develop indigenous ENR technologies.

5. (U) At the June 2009 meeting of the IAEA BOG, the Board considered detailed proposals for the two most advanced concepts: (1) a low-enriched uranium (LEU) reserve to be located in and financed by Russia, and (2) an IAEA-administered LEU bank to be financed through contributions pledged by the United States (nearly $50 million), the European Union (25 million EUR), the United Arab Emirates ($10 million), Kuwait ($10 million), and Norway ($5 million), in addition to $50 million in challenge-grant funds from the U.S. nongovernmental organization Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). Since access to both of these reserves would be controlled by the IAEA Director General using criteria approved by the Board of Governors, these are intended to provide impartial, "last resort" supply of LEU in the event that a consumer state is cut-off by its normal supplier for "non-technical, non-commercial reasons," and in the event that other international suppliers were unable or unwilling to provide back-up supply.

6. (SBU) Since the IAEA Secretariat launched the current fuel assurances effort, many states associated with the Nonaligned Movement and Group of 77 have expressed reservations. The primary suspicion is that this is an effort, by major suppliers, to deprive states that do not currently possess ENR technology of the opportunity to do so. Many states (including most action addresses) have individually, or through association with NAM or G-77 statements, voiced concerns about losing their "inalienable right" under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to the fullest possible access to peaceful nuclear technology. The detailed Russian and IAEA proposals presented to the BOG therefore included explicit language stating that access to the fuel banks would not require a state to give up its right to pursue any fuel cycle technologies. Rather, the idea is that an assured supply of nuclear fuel would help persuade states that there is no need to exercise their right to invest in costly and complex ENR programs.

7. (SBU) In partial response to this clarification, a step forward was taken at the June 2009 BOG meeting. At this meeting nonaligned states moved beyond rhetorical statements about "rights" to raise specific concerns regarding the actual implementation of a fuel bank (ref A). Washington believes this advance in the content of the debate was also facilitated by the fact that detailed proposals were put before the BOG, which enabled states to provide constructive comments on actual implementation details. For example, statements by NAM countries raised specific concerns that needed to be addressed, such as reliability of the triggering mechanism, eligibility criteria, financing, liability, and fuel fabrication issues.

8. (SBU) In order to capitalize on the forward momentum generated at the June 2009 BOG, Washington recommends engaging key skeptics to listen to their views about specific issues in need of resolution as well as ideas on how to do so (ref B). A listening campaign would demonstrate to skeptics that their concerns have been seriously considered and would enable us to gather input on the full spectrum of concerns. All feedback, from potential suppliers and recipients, would form a useful basis upon which Russia and the IAEA could revise their proposals to gain greater acceptance.

9. (SBU) NOTE FOR NEW DELHI: India will be addressed separately. Department is aware of the unique and fundamental concerns India has with the fuel bank proposals, and we will be developing a tailored demarche for New Delhi.


10. (SBU) Action addressees are requested to convey the following points to appropriate officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as appropriate technical ministries, as soon as possible. Interlocutors should be encouraged to provide substantive comments on implementation details and to instruct representatives in Vienna to engage in constructive discussion. Technical ministries, which we expect to be generally pragmatic, should be especially encouraged to provide feedback.


-- For five years, the IAEA Secretariat has sought to establish a mechanism to provide reliable access to nuclear fuel. The United States has supported this effort.

-- In Prague, President Obama called for a "new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation."

-- After a long effort, two concrete fuel bank concepts are now taking shape) a fuel reserve in Angarsk, Russia and an IAEA-administered fuel bank.

-- In June, detailed proposals for these mechanisms were considered by the Board of Governors, and for the first time Member States were able to comment on explicit issues associated with their implementation.

-- The United States was encouraged by the thoughtful discussion that ensued and by the constructive comments made by many Member States.

-- We hope this pragmatic dialog will be sustained at the September Board.

-- Since your country has a particularly influential voice in this discussion, we believe it would be very helpful to have a clear understanding of your views of these proposals.

-- For example, what particular implementation issues do you view as most problematic? How would you recommend these be addressed?

-- We encourage you to share your detailed views with us, with others on the Board, and with the IAEA Secretariat.

-- It is our hope that the Russian and IAEA proposals will be elaborated (upon) to reflect the concerns of all BOG States, so that these can be improved in such a way that is acceptable to all.

If asked/As needed:

-- We believe that a fuel assurance mechanism would help increase access to civil nuclear power in a manner that simultaneously addresses proliferation concerns.

-- Both of the proposals under consideration by the Board of Governors make clear that access to these mechanisms would not require giving up any right to peaceful nuclear technologies.

-- President Obama echoed this sentiment in Prague, when he stated that "no approach will succeed if it is based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules."


11. (U) Department thanks Posts for their assistance in this matter. Department points of contact for working-level fuel assurance issues are Marc Humphrey and Burrus Carnahan (ISN/NESS); please include USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA as an info addressee on all responses. CLINTON

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