Privet, dear Readers of Wonk,
Greetings from Monterey! By means of an introduction, I’ll say that I’ve been a loyal ACW reader for a long time (we probably have that in common). And as Jeffrey has already mentioned, I’m lucky to share a blog home with ACW alumnus Paul Kerr. I hope you don’t mind having me around this week. Think of me as a modest warm-up act for the other awesome guest blogger(s) that Jeffrey has in store for you.
To kick things off, here is a topic that isn’t oft discussed on ACW — multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle. You’ve undoubtedly read the 2005 IAEA Expert Group report, which argued that “[s]uch approaches are needed and worth pursuing, on both security and economic grounds.” You’re also likely very familiar with the diverse proposals, which followed this report. All of them are available on the IAEA’s Revisiting the Nuclear Fuel Cycle page.
Anyway, last month, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released a report on a two-year study jointly conducted with the Russian Academy of Sciences on the “Internationalization of the Civilian Nuclear Fuel Cycle.” Check out the project description and definitely download (and read) the whole report.
As part of this joint study, the NAS–RAS committee analyzed the “proposals and options for future international nuclear fuel cycles, including the incentives that might be required for countries to accept the fuel assurance guarantees and not develop enrichment or reprocessing facilities.” Not surprisingly, the committee endorsed creation of a “global system featuring a small number of centers for the sensitive steps of the fuel cycle.” Yet, the study also noted that
“the implementation of those elements that are feasible today, for example, assurance of fuel supply, should not be delayed while other options are being refined or explored both institutionally and technically.”
This concern about timing seems to be somewhat of a recurring theme. For example, the September issue of Arms Control Today has a great article by Fiona Simpson titled Reforming the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Time Is Running Out. Simpson, who also authored this ACT piece on multilateral approaches to the fuel cycle with IAEA’s Tariq Rauf four years ago, argues that
“[t]he next six months are likely to prove critical in determining whether any of [the] proposals becomes a genuine blueprint for a new approach to this issue or whether, like similar efforts three decades ago, they simply gather dust.”
So what say you, Readers of Wonk? Are discussions of internationalizing the nuclear fuel cycle losing momentum? Where do we go from here?