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Intergovernmental Nuclear Fuel Banks: Re-examined

Foreign Policy
Political Psychology
State Power
Gabriella Gricius
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Gabriella Gricius
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

As it stands, the effectiveness of the nuclear non-proliferation regime is no longer as sturdy as it once was. Russia’s departure from the plutonium disposal treaty, re-ratified in 2009, ushers in a new era of nuclear uncertainty. Not only do the existing obstacles against nuclear proliferation continue to grow, but world leaders also seem less willing to move forward with pre-existing efforts. The elections of populist leaders and stagnation in conflict zones promote the idea amongst nations that the existing security system is no longer viable. Additionally, the sanctions regime against countries who violate IAEA regulations has proven to be ineffective, as there is a lack of consensus among participating countries - which serves to only fuel black market nuclear growth. On an existential level, nations see nuclear weapons as “equalisers”. These weapons both ensure their security as well as bring them to the modern security system on par with other world powers. While the current regime focuses on creating disincentives against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it may be more useful to concentrate on positive incentives to not only promote non-proliferation but also to support an international effort aimed towards peaceful uses of nuclear power.

The questions that should be asked are: what incentives exist for countries to lessen their nuclear stockpile, to forgo the development of such weapons, and to promote the involvement of every country with nuclear weapons?

New infusions of creativity are sorely needed in efforts to boost the effectiveness of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Most efforts, for example, are limited to a focus on the governments of nations, rather than utilising the combined powder of civil society and industry. Incentives that target these groups, especially large multi-national corporations, have a higher chance of success due to their vast influence in multiple governments. One approach that has been suggested but never fully implemented in the IAEA’s El-Baradei Report is the concept of an intergovernmental nuclear fuel supply bank. While the idea does not seem purely practical due to security and usage concerns, international access to nuclear fuel banks lowers the incentives for non-nuclear-countries to obtain said weapons. Furthermore, involving industry in this effort would economically tie both governments and corporations to maintaining a more peaceful approach to nuclear power. As a multilateral approach, nuclear fuel banks promote more opportunities for diplomacy amongst both nuclear states and non-nuclear states. While it only one approach to overcoming the current crisis of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, it has the potential to make a huge difference in how the world handles nuclear power on a supranational basis.
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"Aristocracies … may preserve themselves longest, but only democracies, which refresh their ruling class, can expand" - Hugh Trevor-Roper

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