Safeguarding the Front-end of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

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Safeguarding the Front-end of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

In 1945, scientists involved in the development of the world’s first nuclear weapon argued in the so-called ‘Franck Report’ that if there was unlimited trade and employment of nuclear power, the fate of every pound of uranium should be recorded. Historically, however, there has been limited international regulation at the (very) front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, specifically the production, processing and conversion of uranium ore concentrates (UOC). The rest of the fuel cycle is where uranium takes on different forms and full international safeguards have been applied, namely from the products of conversion (uranium oxides, metals, and gases). Over the past decade this has been changing. Technological advances in the uranium industry, coupled with persistent proliferation threats, have increased concerns over the introduction of undeclared uranium (or other source materials) into the nuclear fuel cycle through conversion, fuel fabrication or enrichment plants. Today, seven decades after the publication of the Franck report, international safeguards are capturing more material upstream, such as source materials. The Iran deal also marks the first nonproliferation agreement that will monitor a state’s uranium production and inventory in detail.

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This originally appeared in Trust & Verify, July-Sep. 2015:150, 1-4, 5. Oct. 2015: