The world may just have gotten a little bit safer.
In Kazakstan this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency is opening a new facility that will serve as a bank for Low Enriched Uranium. If it works at intended, fewer countries around the world will feel the need to enrich their own uranium, meaning that fewer countries will possess the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon.
This facility is known as the “LEU fuel bank” and its opening is the result of over a decade of work by my guest today, former US Senator (and longtime nuclear security advocate) Sam Nunn.
The idea behind the LEU fuel bank is basically this: countries that want to use civilian nuclear power must either build their own enrichment facilities, or must purchase enriched uranium on the open market. The concern with the former is that facilities that enrich uranium for civilian purposes could also be used to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. The bank is basically an insurance policy to dissuade countries from wanting to build their own enrichment facilities; because if for some reason the market is disrupted and supplies cut off, the county can get their fuel from this bank, which stores enough fuel to power a mid sized city for three years.
In this episode, Senator Nunn explains how this idea for a fuel bank, which had been around for decades, was turned into a reality on the ground. Here, the NGO he co-chairs, the Nuclear Threat Initiative deserves much credit. For years, the Nuclear Threat Initiative has been working behind the scenes to set up this bank and they got a big boost when Warren Buffett pledged $50 million to the cause.
If you have 20 minutes and want to hear non-proliferation legend Sam Nunn tell the story behind the LEU bank and why its advent is an important boon for international security and non-proliferation, have a listen.