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The Journeys of the Two Shipments of Low-Enriched Uranium to the IAEA LEU Bank

16 January 2020
On 10 December 2019 the IAEA accepted its second and final delivery of a shipment of low-enriched uranium (LEU) at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan. The IAEA LEU Bank aims to provide assurance to countries about the availability of nuclear fuel. 
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The delivery completes the planned stock of the material that the IAEA LEU Bank will hold, following the first shipment received in October 2019. 
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEA
LEU is the basic ingredient to fabricate nuclear fuel. It is made by enriching naturally occurring uranium to make it suitable for energy production.
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At France's Orano Cycle where the 7 400 km journey of the first shipment began in September 2019, IAEA LEU Bank Acting Project Executive Marta Ferrari and IAEA Senior Nuclear Safety Officer Juraj Rovny witnessed the process of filling several 30B type cylinders with LEU. 
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They also witnessed the sampling of the cylinders, in which samples of LEU are taken from the mother cylinder and analysed in a laboratory to ensure that the material specification matches the requirements of the IAEA.
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Photo: Orano CycleThe 32 cylinders were then each encased in a steel protective shipping package, known as a UX-30 Overpack, and transported in this protective package until they reached their final destination – the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan.  
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Photo: Orano Cycle
For the next stage of the journey – a sea voyage – the cylinders were loaded into flat rack containers and placed on eight flatbed trucks and driven to a seaport. Each flat rack container contained four cylinders. The total weight of the 32 cylinders was more than 90 tonnes, including 48 tonnes of LEU.  
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Photo: Orano CycleTo get the cylinders onto the ship, a container crane was used, one for offloading the cargo from the trucks and another for placing it onto the vessel. 
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Photo: Orano CycleIAEA LEU Bank Acting Project Executive Marta Ferrari and IAEA Senior Nuclear Safety Officer Juraj Rovny were on hand at the port to see the shipment arrive in Russia.
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Photo: TENEX JSCThe cylinders were loaded onto a cargo train for a 4 000 km journey to Kazakhstan. The trip took approximately one week. Russia's TENEX JSC and Kazakhstan's KTZ Express JSC performed the transportation of the consignment through Russia and Kazakhstan respectively.
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Photo: TENEX JSC
Upon arrival at the IAEA LEU Storage Facility at UMP, staff from the UMP facility performed a visual inspection and checked the UX-30 Overpacks for surface contamination using an Alfa-radiation detection device. 
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEAHere, for the first time since the cylinders were filled with LEU at the Orano Cycle facility in France, their UX-30 Overpack protective packing was removed to prepare them for acceptance and final storage. 
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEAThe cylinders then underwent specific weighing procedures to check that the weight corresponded to the contract requirements. 
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEAThe cylinders were then put into the IAEA LEU Storage Facility and checked by the IAEA and UMP team to ensure that there had been no contamination, using a radiation detection device. 
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEABy 17 October 2019, the journey of the first shipment had been completed, with the 32 LEU cylinders officially delivered to the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan through the signing of a protocol between UMP Sales Director Alexander Khodanov and IAEA LEU Bank Acting Project Executive Marta Ferrari.  
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEAThe second shipment of an additional 28 LEU cylinders, which carried a further 42 tonnes of LEU, was delivered by Kazakhstan’s National Atomic Company "Kazatomprom" JSC (KAP) on 9 December 2019, and receipt activities were completed on 10 December 2019. The material had been enriched in Russia. 
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Photo: KAPFollowing enrichment, the LEU was put into cylinders and overpacks and transported by train from Russia to the IAEA LEU Storage Facility at UMP. 
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Photo: KAPAt the IAEA LEU Storage Facility, the cylinders underwent a series of checks similar to those of the first shipment. 
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEAIAEA LEU Bank Acting Project Executive Marta Ferrari and UMP Sales Director Alexander Khodanov performed the final inspection of the cylinders before signing the handover protocol. 
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEAThe second and final shipment of LEU cylinders was officially delivered to the IAEA LEU Bank through the signing of the acceptance and handover protocol between Kazatomprom's Chief Manager of Export and Currency Control Sakhyp Zhubanyshev and IAEA LEU Bank Acting Project Executive Marta Ferrari.
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEAWith the delivery of the two shipments, the IAEA LEU Bank, a physical reserve of 90 tonnes of LEU, the basic ingredient to fabricate fuel for nuclear power plants, is now complete and fully operational. 
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<em>With thanks to the facility operator (UMP) and the IAEA contractors that were involved in the supply, transportation and handover – NAC "Kazatomprom" JSC, Orano Cycle, TENEX JSC and KTZ Express JSC. 
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The project is fully funded by voluntary contributions from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), the United States, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Norway and Kazakhstan.</em>
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Photo: K. Laffan/IAEA

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