February 11, 2022

Senators Menendez and Graham Introduce New Resolution In Support of Establishing a Regional Nuclear Fuel Bank to Avoid Arms Race in the Middle East

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a Senate resolution in support of providing a new diplomatic approach to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions and avoiding a destabilizing arms race in the Middle East. The bipartisan resolution calls for the United States government to adopt a policy that allows any Middle Eastern state access to nuclear fuel if they forgo uranium enrichment and reprocessing. Modeled on the existing nuclear fuel bank created by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the establishment of a regional fuel bank supported by the resolution would allow the commercial development of nuclear power throughout the region while at the same time eliminating the need for dangerous and destabilizing domestic nuclear programs.   

Furthermore, the bipartisan resolution makes clear that a commitment by Iran to end its enrichment program should be met with a United States commitment to provide sanctions relief beyond the measures contained in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This should include the termination of certain “primary” sanctions, as appropriate. Other U.S. sanctions should remain in place until Iran verifiably ceases its other malign activity, including its support for terrorism, its human rights abuses, its hostage-taking, and its destabilizing activities in the region.

“It has become increasingly clear over the past few weeks that Iran’s dangerous and rapidly escalating nuclear program have put it on the brink of having enough material for a nuclear weapon,” said Chairman Menendez. “A nuclear armed Iran would pose a threat to U.S. interests and set off a nuclear arms race in a region already fraught with conflict. This resolution demonstrates there is bipartisan support for a broader, regional diplomatic approach to address Iran’s nuclear program from a regional perspective putting forward norms which would allow Persian Gulf and other Middle Eastern states the ability to enjoy the benefits of nuclear power without fueling nuclear proliferation. As the authors of the sanctions regime that isolated Iran from the international financial markets and brought it to the negotiating table in the first place, we believe this new compromise can provide Iran appropriate sanctions relief while swinging the doors open to permanently solve this nuclear crisis once and for all.”

“I strongly support a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear problem,” said Senator Graham. “Our proposal would allow Iran and other Middle Eastern nations to purchase Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) from a regional fuel bank or supply LEU from an existing fuel bank outside the Middle East. The goal of our proposal is to ensure these Middle Eastern states, including Iran, have access to fuel to power their commercial reactors. There is no reason to enrich uranium if your goal is to have peaceful nuclear power. I believe this proposal will be well-received by our allies in the region and should be welcomed by Iran if peaceful nuclear power is truly what they desire.”

A copy of the Senators’ resolution can be found HERE. Specific provisions of the resolution include:

  • Support for the establishment of a new regional nuclear fuel bank for the Middle East, or a modification and expansion of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) existing nuclear fuel bank, in coordination with other international actors. 
  • Call for a guarantee from the United States that any Middle East state that forgoes domestic uranium enrichment and reprocessing would be able to purchase fuel for their commercial nuclear reactors from the international nuclear fuel bank.
  • Encourage the Biden administration to negotiate bilateral and multilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with various Middle Eastern states, that include the adoption of the IAEA Additional Protocols and a commitment by states to forgo domestic uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel.
  • Acknowledgement that the United States should provide sanctions relief beyond those agreed to in the JCPOA, if Iran agreed to forgo domestic uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel.  This should include the termination of certain United States “primary” sanctions, as appropriate.
  • Reinforce that other U.S. sanctions should remain in place until Iran ceased its malign activities, including its support for terrorism, its human rights abuses, its hostage-taking, and its destabilizing activities in the region.

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