(6) Transparency in the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy
(6) Transparency in the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy
A) Efforts for transparency
In addition to accepting IAEA fullscope safeguards, as described earlier, a state should aim to be fully transparent about its nuclear-related activities and future plans, in order to demonstrate that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. A state that concludes an Additional Protocol with the IAEA is obliged to provide information on its general plans for the next ten-year period relevant to any nuclear fuel cycle development (including nuclear fuel cycle-related research and development activities). Most countries actively promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy have issued mid- or long-term nuclear development plans, including the construction of nuclear power plants.107 The international community may be concerned about the possible development of nuclear weapon programs when states conduct nuclear activities without publishing their nuclear development plans (e.g., Israel, North Korea and Syria), or are engaged in nuclear activities which seem inconsistent with their plans (e.g., allegedly, Iran).
From the standpoint of transparency, communications received by the IAEA from certain member states concerning their policies regarding the management of plutonium, including the amount of plutonium held, are also important.
Using the format of the Guidelines for the Management of Plutonium (INFCIRC/549) agreed in 1997, the five NWS plus Belgium, Germany, Japan and Switzerland annually publish data on the amount of civil unirradiated plutonium under their control. By December 2019, all countries except China declared their civilian plutonium holdings as of December 2018. France, Germany and the United Kingdom reported their holdings of not only civil plutonium but also HEU.
Japan’s report submitted to the IAEA was based on the annual report “The Current Situation of Plutonium Management in Japan” released by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).108 In July 2018, the JAEC issued a new policy paper, “The Basic Principles on Japan’s Utilization of Plutonium,” which for the first time stated that: “Japan will reduce the size of its plutonium stockpile.” It also reaffirms that “the stockpile is not to increase from the current level” through, inter alia, following measures: “Instruct the operators so as to secure a balance between demand and supply of plutonium, minimize the feedstock throughout the process between reprocessing and irradiation, and reduce the feedstock to a level necessary for proper operation of the RRP and other facilities”; and “Work on reducing Japan’s plutonium stockpile stored overseas through measures including promoting collaboration and cooperation among the operators.”109
Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey and the UAE have published the amount of fissile material holdings, or at least have placed their declared nuclear material under IAEA safeguards. From this, it may be concluded that these states have given clear evidence of transparency with regard to their civil nuclear activities.
B) Multilateral approaches to the fuel cycle
Several countries have sought to establish multilateral approaches to the fuel cycle, including nuclear fuel banks, as one way to dissuade NNWS from adopting indigenous enrichment technologies. Austria, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the EU, as well as six countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) jointly, have made their respective proposals.
Among those proposals, nuclear fuel banks have actually and concretely made progress. Subsequent to the establishment of the International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) in Angarsk (Russia) and the American Assured Fuel Supply, the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan was inaugurated in August 2017. The IAEA LEU Bank was mainly funded by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), Kuwait, Norway, the UAE, the United States and the EU.110 The IAEA LEU Bank will store up to 90 tons of LEU—sufficient to run a 1,000 MW lightwater reactor—in the form of uranium hexafluoride.127 This is the first fuel bank under the direct support of the international organization: the IAEA will bear the costs of purchase and delivery of LEU; and Kazakhstan will meet the cost of LEU storage.111 On October 17, 2019, the IAEA announced that the first LEU shipment, from France’s Orano Cycle, was transported to Kazakhstan, whose delivery marked the official start of operation of the IAEA LEU Bank. In December, the IAEA received the second and final shipment of LEU.
107 The World Nuclear Association’s website (http://world-nuclear.org/) provides summaries of the current and future plans of civil nuclear programs around the world.
108 Office of Atomic Energy Policy, Cabinet Office, “The Status Report of Plutonium Management in Japan—2018,” July 30, 2019, http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/iinkai/teirei/3-3set_20190730.pdf.
109 Japan Atomic Energy Commission, “The Basic Principles on Japan’s Utilization of Plutonium,” July 31, 2018, http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/iinkai/teirei/3-3set.pdf.
110 Approximately $150 million was funded for establishment and operation for the next 20 years.
111 “Kazakhstan Signs IAEA ‘Fuel Bank’ Agreement,” World Nuclear News, May 14, 2015, http://world-nuclear-news.org/UF-Kazakhstan-signs-IAEA-fuel-bank-agreement-14051502.html.