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Multilateralism as a Dual-Use Technique: Encouraging Nuclear Energy and Avoiding Proliferation

John Thomson and Geoffrey Forden
Policy Analysis Brief
March 2008

Multilateralism is attractive in the nuclear energy business, above all because it helps to overcome the large costs and high technological barriers involved. This is true, as Urenco (a consortium of the British, German, and Dutch governments) and Eurodif (European Gaseous Diffusion Uranium Enrichment Consortium) show, even for wealthy advanced countries. For smaller or less advanced countries, it may be crucial; it can be their only realistic way to play an active role in a prestigious industry with evolving technology and potentially good profits. For all countries, it offers a gateway to security of fuel supply without political strings.

In addition, by obviating the need for nationally owned-and-operated facilities, multilateralism makes an important contribution to nonproliferation.

The model multilateral arrangement proposed in this brief is broadly applicable to any part, or any combination of parts, of the fuel cycle. The essential element is a commercial consortium composed of governments whose international board of directors will determine policy and deal with political issues while day-to-day operations will be run by a management company also internationally manned. Capital would be contributed in relation to shareholding, and profits distributed similarly. Equipment would mostly be leased rather than owned. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would have special inspection rights and procedures, and protection against cheating by any participating country, including the host country, would be further enhanced by the presence of at least three nationalities in every working shift.

Other important elements of the model emerge from the recommendations listed in the brief.

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