Global Governance of Natural Uranium: An Uneven Patchwork
The governance of natural uranium, specifically the production and trade of uranium ore concentrates (UOC), generally referred to as ‘yellowcake’, has historically been subjected to limited international controls. Over the past two decades, however, an evolving structure of international nuclear treaties has grown to include a range of security applications such as the 1987 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) and its 2005 Amendment, UN Security Council Resolution 1540 of 2004, and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Nuclear Acts of Terrorism (ICSANT). The provisions in these international legal instruments extend to the protection of UOC in international transport, as well as in domestic use, storage and transport. At the same time, the application of safeguards has been extending upstream in the nuclear fuel cycle, capturing materials in process at conversion facilities and potentially the product at mills, with reporting obligations covering uranium mines and concentration plants. Moreover, the geographies of supply and demand are shifting, creating new trade routes, actors and costs; how to build national uranium regulatory systems from scratch; and the application of current export controls to countries outside the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). This chapter looks to materials at the very front end of the nuclear fuel cycle and the evolving complex patchwork of national and international instruments governing their protection and trade. This patchwork rests within the larger global architecture—and the global power structure—of nuclear materials governance. It exemplifies how the three rules of real estate (location, location, location) apply to uranium, representing the mixed nature of formalised and informal mechanisms at the international level and their wide-ranging applications at the national level.
KeywordsRegime theory Uranium ore concentrates Yellowcake Nuclear safeguards Nuclear security
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