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Warren Buffett Funds Obama’s International Fuel Bank?

20 January 2011 One Comment

President Obama is lucky. It is not everyday that a President’s legislative priority, as Senator, becomes a reality because of a billionaire. But that’s what happened last month when famed investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett pledged $50 million to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to create a global nuclear fuel bank to ostensibly discourage nations from enriching their own uranium. In 2007, as a Senator, Obama introduced legislation that would create an international fuel bank and give the IAEA, an arm of the United Nations, $50 million taxpayer dollars to begin to fund it.

Here’s what we know. As I reported before the 2008 Presidential elections, then Senator Obama co-sponsored a bill entitled: Nuclear Weapons Threat Reduction Act of 2007, S.1977.

In Sec. 4, of S.1977 under: Establishment of an international Nuclear Fuel bank: Obama’s bill read, “The President is authorized to make voluntary contributions to support the creation of a low enriched uranium reserve administered by the IAEA that would help guarantee the availability of fuel for commercial nuclear reactors and dissuade countries from building their own uranium enrichment capability.” The bill authorizes the President to appropriate “$50,000,000 for voluntary contributions to support the establishment of an international nuclear fuel bank.”

Fast forward to December 2010, as the New York Times reported:

Spurred by a pledge of $50 million from Warren E. Buffett the billionaire investor and philanthropist, the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted Friday to set up a global nuclear fuel bank that aspiring nations can turn to for reactor fuel instead of making it themselves…

“I’ve never been $50 million lighter and felt better,” Mr. Buffett said… “The spread of weapons of incredible destructive capability is the No. 1 problem facing mankind,” he said. The bank, Mr. Buffett added, promised to get at least “part of the genie back in the bottle.”

The New York Times also reported that Sam Nunn, Georgia’s former Democratic senator, solicited the $50 million donation from Buffett. Reportedly, Buffett made the same offer in late 2006 but “his pledge was contingent on the atomic agency’s establishing the fuel bank and one or more countries’ contributing $100 million — or the equivalent in reactor fuel.

The financial goal was met in March 2009 when Kuwait donated $10 million. The other backers are the United States, the European Union, Norway and the United Arab Emirates. The contributions now total $157 million.”

What was not reported in the New York Times is the counter argument against creating an international fuel bank and the serious risks involved.

As previously reported:

Critics of enriched uranium diplomacy argue that the expansion of the nuclear energy industry could inadvertently lead to state proliferation. Others contend that it is too much of a risk to engage in with some countries, especially those with minimal regulatory capabilities or with histories that point to nuclear materials and technology smuggling.
A September 2007 study, for example, commissioned by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) on the expansion of nuclear energy in the Middle East, warned that in the case of a number of countries, “the threat from illicit nuclear trafficking is a greater proliferation concern than the potential development of nuclear weapons by states.” The PNNL “performs research for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science as well as other government agencies, universities, and industry…”
According to published reports, some of the countries who have overtly or inadvertently expressed interest to develop nuclear energy include; Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Saudi Arabia recently denied having any nuclear energy intent.

Creating an international fuel bank for nations seeking alternative energy sources has been a top priority for President Obama. Thanks to Buffett’s IAEA donation it has become a reality. Only time will tell whether or not this global fuel bank has created a safer or more dangerous world.