U.S. lawmakers back regional fuel bank for Middle Eastern nations

February 16, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News



Sens. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) have introduced a resolution calling for the U.S. government to adopt a policy that would permit any Middle Eastern state access to nuclear fuel via a regional fuel bank, provided it agrees to abstain from uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

Modeled on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s nuclear fuel bank in Kazakhstan, the proposed regional fuel bank would allow the commercial development of nuclear power throughout the Middle East while at the same time eliminating the need for dangerous and destabilizing domestic nuclear programs, according to a February 11 press release from the legislators.

The resolution also makes clear that a commitment by Iran to end its enrichment program should be met with a United States commitment to provide sanctions relief beyond the measures contained in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “This should include the termination of certain ‘primary’ sanctions, as appropriate,” the press release states. “Other U.S. sanctions should remain in place until Iran verifiably ceases its other malign activity, including its support for terrorism, its human rights abuses, its hostage taking, and its destabilizing activities in the region.”

What they’re saying: “This resolution demonstrates there is bipartisan support for a broader, regional diplomatic approach to address Iran’s nuclear program from a regional perspective, putting forward norms which would allow Persian Gulf and other Middle Eastern states the ability to enjoy the benefits of nuclear power without fueling nuclear proliferation,” Menendez said. “As the authors of the sanctions regime that isolated Iran from the international financial markets and brought it to the negotiating table in the first place, we believe this new compromise can provide Iran appropriate sanctions relief while swinging the doors open to permanently solve this nuclear crisis once and for all.”

Commented Graham: “The goal of our proposal is to ensure these Middle Eastern states, including Iran, have access to fuel to power their commercial reactors. There is no reason to enrich uranium if your goal is to have peaceful nuclear power. I believe this proposal will be well received by our allies in the region and should be welcomed by Iran if peaceful nuclear power is truly what they desire.”

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