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International platform for disarmament and non-proliferation dialogue, research, and education

Nuclear Islands: International Leasing of Sensitive Nuclear Fuel Cycle Sites

VCDNP hosted a seminar by Christopher Paine.
Updated: 27 February 2012 • Posted: 20 February 2012

On 15 February 2012, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) hosted a seminar by Christopher Paine, Nuclear Program Director at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In his presentation entitled "International Leasing of Sensitive Nuclear Fuel Cycle Sites: Achieving Enduring Assurance of Peaceful Use," Mr. Paine discussed the central elements of the NRDC proposal for the development of an independent, voluntary membership association, the "International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Association" (INFCA).

In order to address a diverse range of challenges to the nonproliferation regime, the proposed INFCA would ensure that enrichment (and later reprocessing) activities are conducted within "Internationally-Secured Leased Areas" (ISLAs). The regime challenges this proposal is aimed at mitigating include states' right to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT); potential "breakout" scenarios; "virtual weapons states" that formally remain within the NPT bounds; and difficulty ensuring timely detection of diversion of materials. The proposed INFCA would establish controls and procedures required for the IAEA to carry out nonproliferation assurance tasks. In addition, INFCA would certify existing and new uranium enrichment facilities and track certified end-uses of sensitive components.

Seminar attendees
Seminar attendees

Mr. Paine outlined the impact such a new framework might have on decreasing the potential threat of the misuse of civilian nuclear programs and stressed the benefits that such non-discriminatory and cost-effective assurances would have on wider nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation commitments. Additional information and details of the proposed INFCA and ISLAs concepts can be found in the November 2010 Nonproliferation Review article "Nuclear Islands: International Leasing of Nuclear Fuel cycle Sites to Provide enduring Assurance of Peaceful Use" co-authored by the speaker and Thomas B. Cochran.