IAEA fuel 'bank' on target for September 2017 launch

02 June 2016

The IAEA Low Enriched Uranium Storage Facility - or 'bank' - is scheduled to be ready for operations by September 2017, following the conclusion of a partnership agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan this week. The agreement was signed on 27 May in Vienna by IAEA LEU Bank project executive Mark Bassett and UMP sales director Alexander Khodanov.

IAEA-UMP - LEU bank - 460 (IAEA)
Khodanov and Bassett signing the agreement for construction of the storage facility
(Image: IAEA)

To be built in Oskemen and operated by Kazakhstan, the bank will be a physical reserve of LEU - the basic ingredient of nuclear fuel - and act as a supplier of last resort for the Vienna-based agency's Member States in case they cannot obtain LEU on the global commercial market or otherwise.

The facility is also seen as an important part of international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation - as a way to dissuade countries from building enrichment facilities that might be misused to purify uranium to weapons-grade levels. The bank will be a physical stock of up to 90 tonnes of LEU suitable to make fuel for a typical light water reactor, the most widely used type of nuclear power reactor worldwide. The LEU can be used to make enough nuclear fuel to provide power for a large city for three years.

In an IAEA statement issued yesterday, Khodanov said: "We expect to receive the necessary approvals from the relevant Kazakhstan authorities, and have the facility built and ready for operation by September 2017."

The design for the new facility, including its equipment, was developed by UMP. IAEA experts concluded during an on-site visit in March that the design meets the applicable provisions of the IAEA safety standards and security guidance documents, according to the IAEA statement.

Since signing the basic legal framework with Kazakhstan in August 2015, the development of the IAEA LEU Bank has made significant progress, the agency added. The IAEA and Kazakhstan have established a Joint Coordination Committee and agreed a plan of activities necessary to complete the infrastructure required to host the bank.

The IAEA Board of Governors authorized the establishment and operation of the bank in December 2010. In July the following year, Kazakhstan offered to act as host in response to the IAEA's request for expressions of interest. A host state agreement, governing the establishment and hosting of the bank, was signed in August 2015 by IAEA director general Yukiya Amano and Kazakhstan's foreign minister Erlan Idrissov.

In yesterday's statement, the IAEA noted that the safety and security of the bank is "the national responsibility of Kazakhstan and thus will be governed by Kazakhstan's legal and regulatory requirements, while meeting the applicable provisions of the IAEA's safety standards and security guidance documents”. The LEU will also be subject to IAEA safeguards, it added.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News