President Carter called yesterday for the creation of an international nuclear fuel bank as one means to discourage the spread of technology that can be used to fashion nuclear weapons.
The President's proposal would be an attempt to assure a worldwide supply of nuclear fuels and thus lessen pressure on other nations to develop their own advanced nuclear technology, which might lead to the production of nuclear weapons.
Addressing the opening of a three-day nuclear fuel eyele conference at the State Department. Carter said the United States would be willing to contribute "our own technical ability and their portion of the enriched uratism supplies to such an international fuel banz.
The proposal was the Carter administration's latest step in a concerted effort to hall the spread of nuclear weapons.
Of major [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to the administration is the development of nuclear fuel reprocessing technology, which allows the reuse of spent nuclear fuels. Reprocessing however, also creates plutonium from which nuclear weapons can be made. The export of reprocessing technology to nations without nuclear weapons has been strongly opposed by the President.
Pressure for the continued development of reprocessing facilities has [WORD ILLEGIBLE] from two sources - nations that lack their own deposits of uranium and must rely on outside suppliers, and developed nations such as West Germany that hope to sell their own reprocessing technology aboard.
Creation of an international nuclear fuel bank would be an attempt to assure those nations that lack uranium of a dependable supply of fuel for their atomic power plants.
Carter told the conference that such a bank should be established and used "if there is a temporary breakdown in the bilateral supply of nuclear fuels . . ."
In the same 15-minute address to the conference, the President also suggested that need for atomic power may have been "exaggerated" and he urged representatives of the 36 nations attending the conference to re-examine the economic implications of a heavy investment in atomic power.
"I have a feeling that the need for atomic power itself for peaceful uses has perhaps been greatly exaggerated and I hope that all the nations represented here and others will assess alternatives to turning to this source of power if for no other reasons than economic considerations," he said.
Carter said recent studies show that nuclear power requires a capital investment of 20 to 30 times more than the cost of oil drilling to produce an equivalent amount of energy. But he added that he recognizes that even with the cost there will be a need" for more atomic power plants.
THe administration's energy plan foresees a major jump in the number of U.S. atomic power plants, and the President's Energy Secretary, James R. Schlesinger Jr., is a strong advocate of nuclear power.
The President also told the conference the United States hopes a solution can be found for the growing problem of storing spent nuclear fuels.
"We cannot provide storage for the major portion of the world's spent fuel, but we are willing to cooperate," he said. "And when a nation demonstrates to us [a] need for spent nuclear fuel storage, we hope to be prepared to accept that responsibility, working closely with you."
Carter first emphasized his concern over nuclear proliferation last April when he announced that the government would not encourage development of private reporcessing plants and cut back on support for fast breeder reactors, which produce plutonium.
Yesterday, the President also held the first of two days of meetings with Belgian Prime Minister Leo Tindemans. Tindemans is also the president of the European Community (Common Market) and the talks included discussions of economic and defense matters.