04/07/2009, 00.00
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Kazakhstan wants to create a "nuclear fuel bank"

The "bank" would produce nuclear fuel to be sold to countries that use nuclear energy for civilian purposes. Kazakhstan possesses 20% of the world's uranium, but rejects nuclear weapons. Iran's president present at the announcement.

Astana (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev yesterday announced his country's willingness to "consider the possibility of hosting on its territory . . . a nuclear fuel bank for nuclear energy."

This possibility, which was communicated during a press conference held together with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was visiting the country, revisits a 2005 proposal from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In favor of the project are the United States (which earmarked 50 million dollars for it in 2007) and Russia.

This bank would produce enriched uranium, necessary for nuclear reactors, which it could sell to countries that use nuclear energy for civilian purposes, but do not have their own nuclear fuel. Kazakhstan has reserves totaling about 20% of the world's uranium. The IAEA would have a supervisory role.

In the past, the Soviet Union tested atomic bombs in the country. But now Astana rejects any sort of nuclear weapon, and on March 31 representatives of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan ratified a treaty banning nuclear weapons in central Asia.

President Ahmadinejad expressed his "support" for the proposal, but did not say whether Iran would want to use such a bank. Tehran has long been accused by the United States of enriching uranium to make weapons. But it has always defended itself, saying that it is using this for civilian purposes.

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