“We believe that a set of commercial arrangements among nuclear-fuel-service suppliers and electrical utilities that own or may purchase nuclear-power stations, backed up by international institutional arrangements, may help ensure that nuclear-generated electricity remains available to all, but that nuclear weapons do not spread beyond their current possessors,” the foursome wrote.
Mark Hibbs, a Berlin-based senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment’s Nuclear Policy Program, said in a blog post on Monday that given long-standing expectations that Taiwan would not manufacture nuclear fuel in any case, its pledge in this regard would hold little significance.
“Taiwan’s resolve not to enrich or reprocess has nothing to do with the ‘gold standard’ and nearly everything to do with U.S. leverage over Taiwan’s security arrangements,” Hibbs said in the “Arms Control Wonk” commentary. China claims sovereignty over the long-estranged province, which has received U.S. military aid for decades.
“Given Taiwan’s historical dependence upon technology, equipment, and nuclear fuel from the U.S., the absence of a new bilateral agreement in 2014 would halt Taiwan’s nuclear program in its tracks,” Hibbs wrote.
The U.S. government has not formally asked Taiwan for a domestic no-enrichment-or-reprocessing pledge in its renewal deal, pending resolution of the overall policy review, according to Washington sources. In fact, Taiwan has not been provided any draft language for the anticipated agreement and talks have not yet begun, a Taiwanese government official said.
“We still have no draft agreement in [hand], so our government really has no way to express our official position for ENR or no-ENR yet,” the official told GSN, noting that South Korean news media had recently misreported that Taipei was ready to renounce rights to even offshore reprocessing.
“It seems they misinterpret or misunderstand the meaning of giving up the right of enrichment and reprocessing in Taiwan,” the official said. “There might be more speculation if no draft agreement [is] available to discuss.”
Some issue experts argue that regardless of whether Taiwan is an obvious candidate for inking a U.S. pact that incorporates the gold standard, it could serve as a useful precedent for Washington broaching the idea of similar commitments in its subsequent negotiations with other nuclear trade partners.
“I would hope Taiwan's apparent willingness to renounce [enrichment and reprocessing] is of at least passing interest to those arguing over whether or not to ask Taiwan to renounce ENR,” said Lewis, who directs the East Asia program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, based in Monterey, Calif.
If Taiwan is an easy “yes” for agreeing not to manufacture atomic fuel on its territory, then failing to apply the gold standard to its renewal pact would be a lost opportunity in efforts to build a new international regime, several nonproliferation advocates argue. U.S. accords of this kind are governed by Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act and are sometimes called “123 agreements.”
“I don’t care how the Taiwanese get there. If the U.S.-Taiwan agreement has the no-ENR provision in it, it’s a victory. Full stop,” Jodi Lieberman, a senior government relations specialist at the American Physical Society, said in a comment on Hibbs’s blog post. “In my book, [that’s] two 123 agreements with a no-ENR provision in them. The rest is inside baseball.”