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IAEA Purchases Low Enriched Uranium in Milestone Towards Establishment of IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan

Vienna, Austria

IAEA LEU Storage Facility (Photo:Ulba Metallurgical Plant/Kazakhstan)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has signed contracts to purchase low enriched uranium (LEU), paving the way towards the establishment of the IAEA LEU Bank in 2019.  

In the IAEA’s largest procurement since it was founded in 1957, acquisition contracts were signed with two suppliers – JSC National Atomic Company “Kazatomprom” and Orano Cycle. They will supply LEU, the basic ingredient to fabricate nuclear power fuel, for transport to a facility in eastern Kazakhstan where the material will be stored. 

In line with the IAEA’s standard procedures for open tender, the names of the successful bidders have been published in the United Nations Global Marketplace (UNGM) web site

The IAEA Board of Governors decided in December 2010 to establish the IAEA LEU Bank as an assurance of supply mechanism of last resort for Member States which experience a supply disruption due to exceptional circumstances, and which are unable to secure nuclear power fuel from the commercial market, State-to-State arrangements or by any other means.

Owned by the IAEA and operated by Kazakhstan, it will be a physical reserve of up to 90 metric tons of LEU suitable to make fuel for a typical light water reactor, available for eligible countries.

In an earlier project milestone, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev in August 2017 inaugurated the IAEA LEU Bank Storage Facility at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) in the eastern city of Ust-Kamenogorsk. The IAEA LEU Bank will be established once the LEU has been delivered to the Storage Facility.

In accordance with IAEA procurement governance, the LEU acquisition process was carried out in strict adherence to the principles of transparency, fairness, competition and best value, as well as public procurement best practices.

The establishment and operation of the IAEA LEU Bank are fully funded by voluntary contributions from IAEA Member States and other donors totalling US $150 million – sufficient to cover estimated costs for 20 years of operation – and has no impact on the Agency’s budget or other activities.

The Agency does not publish contract prices. The IAEA has taken additional measures to protect any information on the price of the IAEA LEU in order to avoid disrupting the price of uranium on the international market, in line with the 2010 Board of Governors’ mandate.

The IAEA LEU Bank is part of global efforts to create an assured supply of nuclear fuel to countries in case of disruption of the commercial market or of other existing LEU supply arrangements. Other assurance of supply mechanisms established with IAEA approval include a guaranteed physical reserve of LEU maintained by the Russian Federation at the International Uranium Enrichment Centre in Angarsk, Russian Federation, and a UK assurance of supply guaranty for supplies of LEU enrichment services.

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