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Limiting Transfers of Enrichment and Reprocessing

Limiting Transfers of Enrichment and Reprocessing

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Published by: azolitta on Jun 20, 2011
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By Fred McGoldrick
Tis policy brie is based on
 , a report o the Project on Managing the Atom.
For several years, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)has been unable to reach a consensus on the adop-tion o revised guidelines or its members. Te mostcontentious issue is how to strengthen restraints onthe transer o enrichment and reprocessing (E&R)technologies in a manner that would be acceptable toall NSG members, and credible to the major export-ing states and the nuclear industry. Tis issue will beback on the agenda this month when the NSG meetsin plenary session.At present, only a handul o states possess enrich-ment or reprocessing acilities, and very ew countries
It makes more sense orthe U.S. and others to oer attractive alternatives to new nuclear states than to propose arrangementsthat seek to deny what countries consider their sovereign rights.
he NSGshould adopt new guidelines that oer greater speciicity in the rules governing transers o enrich-ment and reprocessing. Members should also register their commitments to promote access to nu-clear energy to those states that are in compliance with their NP obligations.
Bolstering uel assurances, oering “cradle to grave” nuclear services to states with modestnuclear programs, encouraging multilateral controls on enrichment and reprocessing, and puttingpressure on those who would transer sensitive nuclear technology to NP scolaws—all these stepsrequire that states work together to be eective.
Recommendations for Limiting Transfers of Enrichment and Reprocessing Technologies
The Project on Managing the Atom
that do not already possess them have declared plansor intentions to acquire such capabilities or their civilnuclear programs in the near uture. Tereore, ini-tiatives to discourage the spread o enrichment andreprocessing acilities have a limited, albeit impor-tant, target audience.Since ew states have a rm stake in acquiring E&R a-cilities, it may prove an opportune time to win broadagreement on strengthened international norms todiscourage the spread o these technologies. Still, itwill be challenging, and indeed may ultimately proveimpossible, to reconcile the idea o restricting enrich-ment and reprocessing technologies with the viewso many non-nuclear-weapon states and developingcountries on what they regard as their inalienablerights to peaceul nuclear technology, including E&R.Given the above considerations, governments shouldtake the ollowing steps.
Policy Brief • June 2011
Given the sharp divisions in theglobal community on this issue, a broad internationalconsensus that would be universally credible to NPparties, national parliaments, and private industry ismost likely not an achievable goal. Te most prag-matic strategy would be to tone down the rhetoric,emphasize the rights o NP parties to the peaceuluses o nuclear energy as long as they are in compli-ance with their nonprolieration objectives, and in-crease assistance to developing countries in buildingthe inrastructure or peaceul nuclear programs thatdo not necessarily require them to build their ownE&R acilities. In other words, it makes more senseto oer attractive incentives and opportunities as analternative to national enrichment and reprocessingthan to propose arrangements that openly seek todeny what countries consider their sovereign rights.
Te NSG has come very close to reaching agreement on the so-called“clean text” language or restraining E&R transers.Abandoning the eort at this point would representa major ailure. Since there are no transers o E&Rcontemplated in the oreseeable uture, there is stillample time to try to obtain consensus on the cleantext. With sufcient diplomatic eort, this could very well be achievable. Te G-8 should continue to adoptthe clean text either on an annual or more permanentbasis.
 aking this step would at least rule out E&R trans-ers to states that are not party to the NP or that arenot adhering to their nonprolieration commitments.Tis option would retain the existing NSG guidelineson E&R transers, including the requirements to exer-cise restraint and to encourage multinational or sup-plier involvement in transerred E&R acilities.
 June 2011
For more from Managing the Atom, please visit:
I the NSG adopts the clean text oronly the objective criteria, the group should take stepsto mute criticisms o discrimination and denial o NP rights and to help reute charges that the NSG isa cartel o nuclear haves seeking to deprive have-notso the ull benets o peaceul nuclear technology. TeNSG should thereore adopt, along with strengthenedcontrols on E&R, new ormulations in its publishedguidelines that would afrm the inalienable right o all NP Parties to the peaceul uses o nuclear energy.NSG members should register their commitment tothe exchange o equipment, materials and scienticand technological inormation or the peaceul uses o nuclear energy, in particular or developing countries,as long as they are in conormity with the obligationso NP.
Tese guidelines haveworked well to date, and the real problem has beenthe work o clandestine supply networks by roguesuppliers and countries seeking nuclear weapons. TeNSG should commit to greater cooperation in shar-ing inormation on the techniques and methods thatrogue supplier states and nuclear weapons aspirantsemploy to obtain exports illegally. Tis should includea greater willingness to share intelligence inorma-tion among exporting states, both NSG members andnon-NSG members.
A strategy o oering im-proved uel assurances is likely to have positive butlimited benets in discouraging the spread o enrich-ment and reprocessing; this approach is likely to ap-peal only to small states that may be concerned aboutsecurity o supply. In any event, the U.S. and Rus-sian LEU stockpiles plus the IAEA uel bank and theUK enrichment bond scheme ought to constitute su-cient uel supply backup mechanisms without dis-rupting the global market.
 June 2011
For more from Managing the Atom, please visit:
Even i technology holders do not make an eort to makethe multinational model a global norm, multinationalenrichment ventures o one kind or another seem tohave emerged as common practice among technology holders, with AREVA, URENCO, Angarsk, Silex andnow USEC all involving some orm o multinationalparticipation. At a minimum this trend should beencouraged.
Temodel o nuclear cooperation that the United Stateshas put into place with the United Arab Emirates willace considerable obstacles in winning acceptance by other states both in the region and elsewhere. More-over, other suppliers are highly unlikely to ollow thismodel. Tus the utility o this approach to prevent-ing the spread o E&R may be limited to a very ewcountries; the prospects o it serving as a more generalmodel are dim.
Suppliers will generally aceormidable public acceptance obstacles in trying tooer cradle-to-grave uel cycle services, especially ona broad basis, since they would require some coun-tries accepting spent uel or nuclear waste rom othercountries. However, suppliers may nd it possibleto overcome political opposition i they limit theiroers to assume responsibility or managing othercountries’ spent uel to those nations that have smallnuclear programs and/or are in regions o political in-stability or prolieration concern.
Tese eorts must be accompanied by strengthened international saeguards, export con-trols, institutional checks, and other non-technicalmeasures.
Diplo-matic interventions and interdictions have been themost eective means o stopping the spread o E&R(e.g. the United States with proposed German andFrench transers o reprocessing to South Korea, ai-wan, and Pakistan in the 1970s, the U.S. diplomaticinitiatives with proposed Russian transers o en-richment technology to Iran, and the interdiction o Pakistani transers o sensitive nuclear technology toLibya).
Statements and views expressed in this policy brie aresolely those o the author and do not imply endorsement by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School, or theBeler Center or Science and International Afairs.

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