May 23, 2007

Contact: Lynne Weil, 202-225-5021


Washington, DC – The House Committee on Foreign Affairs today approved a ground-breaking bill to support the creation of an international nuclear fuel bank. The bank would ensure that countries seeking the benefits of nuclear energy will not have to develop a capacity to produce their own nuclear fuel, which can also be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Committee members voted to support the International Nuclear Fuel for Peace and Nonproliferation Act (H.R. 885), co-sponsored by Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

“Those who truly seek to develop nuclear power solely for peaceful means will jump at the chance to take part in this fuel bank,” Lantos predicted. “It provides an opportunity to ensure a stable supply of nuclear fuel from an internationally-supported nuclear facility located in a safe nation. This initiative will put to the test the claims of countries such as Iran that they are not working to build nuclear weapons, but want simply to generate power for civilian purposes.”

Ros-Lehtinen said the legislation reinforces existing U.S. policy that seeks to stop the spread of nuclear capabilities to countries such as Iran. “Given that the technology for making nuclear material for civilian reactors and for bombs is essentially the same, it is too great a burden, and too high a risk, for the world to have to disprove claims by suspect governments that this technology is being used exclusively for civilian use,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Since the dawn of the nuclear age, it has been U.S. policy to prevent an increase in the number of states that possess nuclear weapons in order to stop the rise of additional threats to U.S. national security. An effective nonproliferation policy requires preventing the spread of a capacity to produce nuclear fuel by enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel as this may also be used to produce nuclear weapons.

H.R. 885 authorizes $50 million for the establishment of an independent international nuclear fuel bank to be supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The bank would guarantee reactor fuel to countries that are in good standing with existing international nuclear safeguards commitments and do not possess uranium enrichment and spent-fuel reprocessing facilities. The funding would match $50 million offered by the Nuclear Threat Initiative for the same purposes. These funds, however, would only be available for two years, pending another $50 million pledged from other sources.