Kazakhstan offers to host nuclear fuel bank

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, shakes hands with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev during their meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, Monday, April 6, 2009. Ahmadinejad is on a visit to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan.(AP Photo/Ilyas Omarov)

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan offered Monday to host an international nuclear fuel bank, and Iran's leader said he supported the idea. The United States initiated the project and allocated $50 million toward it in 2007. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said Monday that his Central Asian country would be an appropriate place for such a depository, as it was giving up its own Soviet-era nuclear arsenal. If created, the global fuel bank would undermine claims by Iran and other states that they need to develop their own fuel enrichment programs. Nevertheless, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a two-day visit to Kazakhstan that he supported the project.

"We believe Nazarbayev's proposal to create a nuclear fuel bank in Kazakhstan is a very good proposal," Ahmadinejad was quoted by Russian agency RIA-Novosti as saying at a news conference Monday in the Kazakh capital of Astana. "Nuclear powers should be disarmed in such a way as they can dispel their anxiety and the anxiety of all mankind."

Since 2006 Iran has been under U.N. Security Council sanctions, applied to its nuclear and missile industries, for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants or the material for atomic bombs.

The United States and some of its allies have accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity, not producing weapons.

Kazakhstan inherited the world's fourth-largest nuclear arsenal amid the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, but it quickly sought international assistance in removing the weapons. The country still cooperates closely with the United States in permanently decommissioning infrastructure associated with the construction of nuclear weapons.

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