ElBaradei Appoints Fuel Cycle Group

Miles A. Pomper

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has tapped a Swiss arms control expert to lead a 23-member expert panel that will examine alternative ways to provide and dispose of key civilian nuclear materials in order to prevent nuclear proliferation.

The appointment of Bruno Pellaud, a former IAEA deputy director-general, to chair the experts group comes in the wake of alleged efforts by Iran and North Korea to use civilian nuclear plants as a cover for producing the highly enriched uranium and plutonium needed to fuel nuclear weapons.

To limit the possibility of such diversion, ElBaradei has been encouraging states voluntarily to cede their rights under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to certain technologies that can have both civilian and military applications. (See ACT, November 2003.)

In particular, ElBaradei has suggested that spent fuel repositories as well as facilities for enriching uranium or reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium might be placed under international control. He is now also suggesting that countries agree to abide by a five-year moratorium on the construction of facilities of this kind.

At the request of ElBaradei, key IAEA member states named other members of the panel, who include both technical and policy specialists. In addition to Pellaud, ElBaradei appointed two outside advisers: Lawrence Scheinman, who served as assistant director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Clinton administration, and former Euratom safeguards director Wilhelm Gmelin.

The panel, whose formation ElBaradei announced in June (see ACT, July/August 2004), is set to meet four times before March 2005, when it is expected to provide a report to the IAEA’s Board of Governors.

The board could then decide to forward its recommendations to the 2005 NPT Review Conference, which meets once every five years and brings together representatives of the treaty’s 189 states-parties.