WSJ: Kazakhstan Offers To Host 'Nuclear Bank'
Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic and nuclear weapons state, approached the White House in recent weeks to volunteer to host an international "nuclear fuel bank" where nations renouncing nuclear weapons can purchase fissile fuel for nuclear energy reactors, a senior White House official said Sunday, according to Wall Street Journal.
President Barack Obama is seriously considering the offer.
The revelation puts weight behind Mr. Obama's embrace of the nuclear fuel bank idea. Mr. Obama would like to establish a repository for nuclear fuel, much of it fr om retired nuclear warheads. That way, nations seeking nuclear power could access fissile material without developing nuclear enrichment capacities on their own or creating a market for such materials. The Bush administration had also entertained the idea but had opposed citing the bank in a neutral country under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union tested its nuclear weapons and wh ere Russia still launches its satellites, would represent the clearest sign yet that the Obama administration is ready to bend Moscow's way to win a partner in Mr. Obama's arms control agenda. After the Soviet Union broke up, Kazakhstan was left with a nuclear arsenal of its own, which it voluntarily gave up.
An EU diplomat in Prague familiar with the nuclear security issues said Kazakhstan made a lot of sense as a potential site for a nuclear fuel bank.
"This is one of the very few countries that had nuclear weapons and destroyed them. So Kazakhstan is a very interesting offer," the diplomat said, noting that the EU has given the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna 25 million euros to figure out how to structure such a fuel bank.
But it could also raise some eyebrows. The authoritarian government might not allow the kind of transparency such a venture might need.
"There hasn't been a final decision by President Obama," the senior administration official said, "but he is considering Kazakhstan to be the host", reported the Wall Street Journal.