The IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Storage Facility is scheduled to be ready for operations by September 2017, following the conclusion of a partnership agreement between the IAEA and the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) in Kazakhstan this week.
"This marks a significant milestone in the establishment of the IAEA LEU Bank," said IAEA LEU Bank Project Executive Mark Bassett.
The IAEA LEU Bank, operated by Kazakhstan, will host a reserve of LEU, the basic ingredient of nuclear fuel, and act as a supplier of last resort for Member States in case they cannot obtain LEU on the global commercial market or otherwise subject to conformance with the eligibility criteria set out by the IAEA Board of Governors. It will not disrupt the commercial market.
"The signing of this agreement with the IAEA was an important step towards establishing the IAEA LEU Storage Facility," said UMP Sales Director Alexander Khodanov. "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 IAEA LEU Storage 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.
Since signing the basic legal framework agreements with Kazakhstan in August 2015, the development of the IAEA LEU Bank has made significant progress. 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 IAEA LEU Bank.
The IAEA LEU Bank will be a physical stock of up to 90 metric tons 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.
The IAEA Board of Governors authorized the establishment and operation of the IAEA LEU Bank on 3 December 2010. On 29 July 2011, Kazakhstan offered to host the IAEA LEU Bank in response to the Agency's request for Expressions of Interest, and a Host State Agreement, governing the establishment and hosting of the Bank, was signed in August 2015.
Safety and security of the IAEA LEU 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.