UN Atom Agency Gets $150 Million for Buffett-Backed Uranium Bank

The United Nations atomic agency won approval to start a uranium bank backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett and intended to assure countries that supplies of the heavy metal used in power reactors won’t be cut off.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors voted today in Vienna to tap a $150 million fund to buy low-enriched uranium, according to a copy of the tally. Buffett pledged $50 million to the bank in 2006. Other donors included the U.S. and the European Union.

A nuclear-fuel bank, monitored by the Vienna-based IAEA, has been under discussion for decades as a way to assure supplies of reactor-grade uranium. The agency has promoted the establishment of a nuclear-fuel bank to dissuade countries such as Iran from setting up uranium programs that could be used to increase enrichment to the level required for atomic weapons.

The Buffet-backed 2006 proposal had faced resistance among some emerging-market countries concerned that the deal could restrict their own nuclear-fuel manufacturing. Nations that already enrich uranium favored the fuel bank because it may keep competitors from entering the market.

The vote passed with 28 nations in favor, six abstentions and one country absent.

-- Editor: Jennifer M. Freedman