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Thursday, September 20, 2007

A new NPT?

Somewhat quietly, the United States is trying to close a loophole in the Non-proliferation Treaty. The NPT allows states to pursue the nuclear fuel cycle for peaceful energy-related purposes -- including uranium enrichment.

Last weekend, in hopes of ending the need for enrichment, 11 nations joined the US, Russia, China, France and Japan in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.
Under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, a limited number of countries including the U.S. and Russia would provide uranium fuel to other nations for powering reactors to generate electricity, and then retrieve the fuel for reprocessing. This would deprive those nations of their own nuclear fuel enrichment programs, which can be used to make atomic arms.
These are the latest 11 states to join the partnership: Australia, Bulgaria, Ghana, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine.

Do you see any worrisome nuclear threshold states in that group?

Like the Proliferation Security Initiative, the GNEP is a US-led "coalition of the willing" that does not work like a traditional multilateral organization. New international organizations typically form only after a sizable group of states agree to the negotiated terms of a particular treaty.

With GNEP, the US can start offering selective incentives to every state that agrees to live by American rules.

If the GNEP promotes nuclear reprocessing, however, critics are going to point out that the partnership might actually promote nuclear proliferation.

Hmmm. If the program does not reduce proliferation, what would it do? Well, GNEP supporters fairly openly embrace nuclear energy.

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