ASTANA – Kazakhstan, one of 17 countries excluded from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board, is preparing to file a legal demand to make it eligible for a seat, reported the Bloomberg on Aug. 25, citing a statement dated Aug. 18 circulated among diplomats.
“Since the height of the Cold War, the rules governing the safety and security of the global nuclear industry have been decided behind closed doors by a 35-member board that excludes some of the major players in the business. The world’s biggest uranium producer is trying to shake up the status quo,” the article reads.
The Central Asian nation’s exclusion from the IAEA’s chief decision-making council is “deeply discouraging” and “leads to a violation of the fundamental principle of equality,” Kazakhstan said in the statement.
According to the article, Kazakhstan plans to present its demands at the Vienna-based agency’s next general conference on Sept. 25, and is preparing a resolution to address its disenfranchisement. The IAEA declined to comment.
Kazakhstan, which produces about two-fifths of the world’s uranium, has tried but failed over the years to join the IAEA’s Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Far East regional groupings, which are legally authorized to decide who sits on the board of governors. Other countries in Central Asia, such as the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, are also not included on the board. Additionally, island nations like Bahrain, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are also excluded. Arab states have denied Israel a place in the Middle East group.
“The issue is political,” said Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, a Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation director. “Some states are not interested in admitting competitors that would be strong contenders for a board seat, as is the case with Kazakhstan.”
Kazakhstan’s motion potentially adds to the political turbulence faced by nuclear energy generators. Last month’s coup in Niger disrupted supply chains in another of the world’s top uranium producers, just as Western nations try to patch supply chain vulnerabilities exposed by Russia’s war in Ukraine, the statement reads.
With a rising focus on the tenuous links holding together nuclear-fuel supply chains, Kazakhstan’s demands are gaining traction among an unusual coalition. Russian diplomats said they have tried helping Kazakhstan in the past and are ready to do so again. Iran and the United States have come out in favor of a rule change that would grant more rights to the government of Astana.
“We applaud Kazakhstan’s persistent efforts to serve on the board and to draw attention to the unfair state of affairs,” U.S. IAEA Ambassador Laura Holgate said in a statement. “Member States that do not currently belong to a regional group should be able to join a geographically appropriate group and have the opportunity to serve on the board.”