A nuclear fuel bank to secure peaceful atomic energy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Kazakhstan is ready to play a key role in global security by hosting an international nuclear fuel bank under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, writes Kanat Saudabayev, the country's secretary of state, in an exclusive commentary for EURACTIV.

This commentary was sent exclusively to EURACTIV by Kanat Saudabayev, Kazakhstan's secretary of state.

"Since regaining independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has been committed to the global process of non-proliferation and reduction of nuclear weapons. After the Soviet Union's collapse, we gave up the world's fourth-largest nuclear arsenal and the infrastructure of the old Soviet nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk was completely dismantled, starting in 1991.

But Kazakhstan's contribution to the non-proliferation regime is not limited to the closure of the nuclear test site and the liquidation of weapons of mass destruction.

Our country is one of the founders of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, jointly launched by Russia and the United States, and the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty created the first nuclear-weapon-free zone entirely located in the northern hemisphere, and the first such zone bordering two nuclear powers.

Possessing some of the largest reserves of uranium in the world and being the leader in its extraction, Kazakhstan today stands for the development of 'atoms for peace' under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and supports international efforts to strengthen the security of the nuclear fuel cycle and eliminate the risks of proliferation of fissile materials.

In this regard, President Nazarbayev has declared Kazakhstan's readiness to host an international nuclear fuel bank, which under the auspices of the IAEA would provide a global repository and allow countries to tap into its reserves to fuel their nuclear plants without the need to develop their own nuclear enrichment capability.

Today, this organisation is considering our proposal. We believe Kazakhstan's candidacy fully complies with all requirements as the country which the world community can entrust with such a bank. We are convinced that all states interested in secure development of peaceful atomic energy will thus obtain a new and effective non-proliferation mechanism.

At the same time we believe that it is time to strengthen the existing regime of non-proliferation and reduce the amount of weapons of mass destruction.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is the product of the nuclear restraint doctrine formulated during the Cold War epoch. Despite the large number of conflict situations between 1946 and 1991, the world managed to avoid using nuclear weapons.

However, the noble goals of the prevention of nuclear weapons proliferation beyond the borders of the 'nuclear five' and nuclear arsenal disarmament on the part of this 'nuclear five', set out in the Treaty in 1968, have never been achieved. The Treaty was neither able to prevent the emergence of new nuclear states, nor able to ban the development of weapons of mass destruction by members of the 'nuclear club'.

Kazakhstan stands for the soonest entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty as an efficient restraint mechanism. By joint efforts, we should persuade the nine countries which have either not signed the Treaty or have not yet ratified it to do so. Without these nine countries' involvement, the Treaty is meaningless and void.

In addition, it is important to begin early negotiations on elaborating the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty must now be strengthened. The Treaty has become asymmetric – providing for sanctions against non-nuclear countries only. These nuclear powers calling for the prohibition of nuclear weapons development should set an example by reducing and renouncing their own nuclear arsenals in the optic of a gradual and final elimination of arsenals.

Only a steady decrease in the number of nuclear weapons, a total rejection of horizontal and vertical proliferation by all members of the international community, control over proliferation and non-discriminatory use of nuclear energy and technology for peaceful purposes under the complete supervision of the IAEA is the way ahead. There is no alternative.

That is why at the Washington Nuclear Security Summit in 2010, President Nazarbayev put forward an initiative to elaborate a new universal Treaty on Comprehensive Horizontal and Vertical Nuclear Non-Proliferation, and called upon the United Nations to adopt the Universal Declaration of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World to reflect the determination of all states to move towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The way ahead is difficult and thorny. A United Nations resolution recognising 29 August – the date of closure of the Semipalatinsk test site – as the International Day against Nuclear Tests gives the impetus for accelerated action. The resolution is the motor that will drive the forthcoming Astana International Forum 'For a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World', which will take place in October.

If all states sincerely strive to build a nuclear-weapon-free world through uniting their efforts and fight to achieve this high and noble goal, we will liberate our planet from that Sword of Damocles: the nuclear weapons threat."

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