Kazakhstan, producer of more than 20,000 tonnes of natural uranium per year, has welcomed security guidance recently developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Vienna-based agency said yesterday that Kazakhstan - which established a "comprehensive system for the control and physical protection of natural uranium" in 2010 - had contributed to an IAEA publication entitled Nuclear Security in the Uranium Extraction Industry and issued in February this year.
The IAEA publication includes specific measures to address insider and outsider threats and covers physical protection, inventory control and transport security. It also provides guidance on how to develop facility security plans and comprehensive transport security plans.
In the IAEA statement yesterday, Eldar Nikhanov, physical protection officer at a uranium mine in Kazakhstan under state-run KazAtomProm, said it was "difficult to overstate the importance and timeliness" of the guidance.
Nikhanov said: "As a world leader in uranium ore concentrate production, Kazakhstan is aware of its responsibility to contribute to natural uranium security measures within the international community. Since we adopted new security measures consistent with the guidance, there have been no incidents of unauthorized removal of natural uranium."
Kazakhstan has 23 production sites for extracting and processing uranium, and the security of each one of these has been strengthened significantly thanks to the recent IAEA guidance, Nikhanov said.
"We are aware of the black market for natural uranium and the need for strong, practical security measures," he said. "From industry experience, these measures will greatly reduce risks of theft."
Training workers is the "main challenge" in ensuring mines stay secure, he said, and the guidelines provided by the IAEA this year have been an "invaluable resource" for KazAtomProm's personnel.
An international legal framework calling for prudent management practices is in place to ensure that natural uranium stays secure, the IAEA said. The agency informed its Member States' regulatory bodies and industry operators on prudent management practices to protect uranium ore concentrate from unauthorized removal during production, storage and transport.
"Security regimes need to be embedded into the uranium extraction process from the start," said Assel Khamzayeva, nuclear security officer at the IAEA. "There is a real need for these kinds of specific measures to be adopted, and it is more difficult and costly to add them later."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News