U.S. Shifts Fuel Cycle Position?

Article excerpt

Energy secretary Samuel Bodman indicated in an April 5 speech that the United States may be adjusting its position on measures intended to limit the spread of materials and technologies that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Bodman's remarks were given at a Virginia conference organized by Sandia National Laboratories. They came on the eve of a once-every-five-years nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in May, during which debate over such restrictions is expected.

In his remarks, Bodman expressed a U.S. willingness to consider proposals different from that outlined by President George W. Bush in a February 2004 address.

In that speech, Bush called on the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to deny transfers of uranium-enrichment or plutonium reprocessing facilities to countries without functioning facilities for these activities. Such facilities can be used to produce fuel for civilian power reactors or key ingredients for nuclear weapons. The NSG is a 44-member group that seeks to coordinate nuclear trade policies.

Bodman touted Bush's approach as the "surest way to prevent proliferators from acquiring sensitive technologies," but that proposal has run into resistance from other members. (see ACT, December 2004.) Bodman appeared to open the door to other approaches favored by European allies.

"Any approach [on restrictions] must clearly and objectively separate states that honor nonproliferation agreements from countries like Iran whose proliferation intentions are clear," Bodman said.

"Most nations that operate nuclear energy and fuel cycle facilities comply with and support international nonproliferation agreements," Bodman continued. "But some states, notably Iran and North Korea, have pursued nuclear fuel capabilities in secret. …