Thomas M. Countryman
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
IAEA Low Enriched Uranium Fuel Bank Agreement Signing Ceremony
Minister Idrissov, Minister Shkolnik, Director General Amano, Honored Guests:
Establishing the IAEA Fuel Bank is an important and a complex achievement. It is important that we recognize the many people who made it possible.
Sam Nunn, of course, was essential in building a strong nonproliferation partnership between the United States and Kazakhstan and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) was instrumental in not just providing the vision, but in securing the funding to move the project ahead.
Warren Buffet’s commitment to back NTI’s contribution helped move us from discussions to actions and the generous and responsible support from the European Union, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Norway helped make this a reality.
We salute the International Atomic Energy Agency and its dedicated professionals under the leadership of Director General Amano for their central role in establishing this Fuel Bank. The Agency continues to be at the very center of addressing evolving challenges in nonproliferation and nuclear security.
Today, it is especially appropriate to recognize the Republic of Kazakhstan. When the IAEA Board of Governors selected Kazakhstan as the site of the Fuel Bank, it was a decision that was not just technically logical but also symbolically and politically important.
Kazakhstan has been a leader in nonproliferation and nuclear security dating back to President Nazarbayev’s historic decision in 1991 to close the Semipalatinsk Test Site, send all of the nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan back to Russia, and sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear weapons state.
It continues to be a valuable participant in the Nuclear Security Summit process. Recently, it took the important decision to host the new headquarters of the International Science and Technology Center here in Astana.
The United States remains committed to the agenda President Obama laid out in Prague in April 2009 – that is, taking practical steps to achieving the goal of lasting peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons.
The IAEA LEU Fuel Bank is one such step. It is a mechanism that supports the growth of safe and secure nuclear power in ways that prevent proliferation and promote global security.
It will provide states with additional confidence in their ability to obtain nuclear fuel in an assured and predictable manner.
This Fuel Bank joins other initiatives such as the American Assured Fuel Supply, the U.K. Nuclear Fuel Assurance Mechanism, and the physical reserve of low enriched uranium maintained by the Russian Federation in Angarsk to provide additional assurance of supply to states – beyond the reliability of the commercial market.
This milestone today is an opportunity, of course, to give credit to so many who worked so hard for this achievement. More than that, it is our opportunity to stress to you, Mister Minister, that the United States is committed to continuing to support the full-scale implementation of the project.
Congratulations and thank you.
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