• Affiliation : Director General of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences
  • Affiliation : Chairman, Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs
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Middle East nuclear fuel cycle: is the regionalization possible?


MOSCOW, JUNE 3, 2015. PIR PRESS – “If suddenly Iran is out of enriched uranium and it isn’t able to provide us with it, we will be able to address to IAEA. It is like to borrow money in an ordinary bank: one cannot rely only on personal income and has to go to a bank from time to time. It’s a certain airbag, which would secure us if the fuel cycle or other things go wrong, for example, due to political reasons. The Middle East is a very turbulent place: today we’re friends, tomorrow there could be another situation,” - Mohammed Shaker, Chairman of Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

A regionalization of the Iranian nuclear fuel cycle could become an additional mechanism for nuclear nonproliferation in the Middle East. Theoretically and technically, Iran’s nuclear enrichment capacity can be used by the entire region. Such a project, however, can hardly be implemented right now or during the talks on the Iranian nuclear program. Experts from Kuwait and Egypt Adnan Shihab-Eldin and Mohammed Shaker share their opinion on the major commercial and political difficulties that stand in the way of regionalizing the Iranian nuclear fuel cycle.

“It would be nice to elaborate a format, which would allow Iran to preserve its achievements in the field of uranium enrichment and production of nuclear fuel, at the same time, having partners, which could control its activities and take part in its governance as shareholders, members of the board of directors”, - says Mohammed Shaker, Chairman of Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

“I agree with you that this project is possible at purely technical level. Any final agreement on Iranian nuclear program would envisage that Iran would preserve its potential to enrich uranium to 5%. Iranian nuclear program will hardly be broad-scale, but even so the question how to make it economically reasonable would emerge; this means a search for corresponding markets for enriched uranium or nuclear fuel. The question is whether it could become a kind of mechanism to provide the region with low-enriched fuel”, - responds Adnan Shihab-Eldin, Director General of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences.

“Teheran understands well that the Arab countries are not very satisfied with its activities in the nuclear field. Technical details are not yet elaborated and there is no clear understanding which part of the Iranian nuclear fuel cycle should be regionalized, whether all sensitive technologies should be included here, what should be discussed in the first turn, etc.” - says Mohammed Shaker.

“Let me disagree with you. Even if we don’t take into account the conflict between Iran and the Gulf countries and assume that relationship will improve in future, there is another stumbling block. For example, why should the UAE buy enriched uranium from unverified supplier? What about the quality? What about guarantees? Even if all other issues are solved these problems will remain,” - replies Adnan Shihab-Eldin.

The continuation of the polemics “The Middle Eastern nuclear fuel cycle: is regionalization possible?” published in the first issue of Security Index No. 1 (112), Spring 2015 is available on the PIR Center website (in Russian).

For detailed information on the Iranian nuclear program and energy please see the interview of the Iranian ambassador to Russia Mehdi SanaeiNuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine(in Russian), published in Security Index No. 4 (111), 2014 and the article written by Yuri FedorovIran: a nuclear-weapon state or a future energy superpower?” (in Russian) published in Security Index No. 3 (110) Autumn 2014.

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