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Russian plant may benefit from Buffett-supported nuclear pledge

A Russian uranium enrichment plant may be part of a $150 million nuclear fuel bank, partially funded by Warren Buffett and promoted by the United Nations to discourage development of atomic weapons, a UN official said.

„The Russian center could be a key component of the reserve bank,” Yury Sokolov, deputy director general of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, said today at a meeting with Russian nuclear officials in Angarsk, in Siberia. The UN is in talks to set up the reserve using fuel from the plant, which is in Angarsk, according to Tariq Rauf, head of verification and security policy at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Russia will open the world's first international enrichment center at the site next month, and would need to amend its law to allow purchases by a non-government buyer.

Buffett and fellow billionaire Ted Turner pledged in September to fund a third of a $150 million fuel initiative by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei supports a fuel bank to dissuade countries from enriching uranium. Enriched uranium, the fuel for nuclear reactors, can also be used to make atomic weapons. The first step toward the agency buying from Angarsk was the declassification last October of the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemicals Complex. Authorities no longer deemed it a site vital to Russian national security.

The agency intends to use the cash to buy and store a three-year supply of fuel for one 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor, the size of the Bushehr plant in Iran. The reserve would be a guarantee for countries building or expanding their nuclear industry. Should a country have difficulties buying nuclear fuel for political or economic reasons, the agency could sell its reserve to deter the state from starting up its own enrichment program. (Bloomberg)