Owned and controlled by the IAEA, the LEU Bank will host a reserve of LEU, and act as a supplier of last resort for Member States in case the supply of LEU to a nuclear power plant is disrupted due to exceptional circumstances and the Member State is unable to secure LEU from the commercial market or by any other means.
The IAEA LEU Bank will be a physical reserve of up to 90 metric tons of low enriched uranium 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 power a large city for three years.
This will provide Member States with additional confidence in their ability to obtain nuclear fuel in an assured and predictable manner in the event there is disruption in existing fuel supply arrangements due to exceptional circumstances and when LEU can be obtained by no other means.
The IAEA LEU Bank will be located at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Oskemen, Kazakhstan. It is anticipated that it will take about two years from the signature of the IAEA LEU Bank agreements to do all the necessary work to bring the IAEA LEU Bank into operation.
The Bank is part of global efforts to create an assured supply of nuclear fuel to countries in case of disruption of the open market or of other existing supply arrangements for LEU. 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, Russia, and an assurance of supply guaranty for supplies of LEU enrichment services in the United Kingdom. The United States also operates its own LEU reserve.
A key principle of the IAEA LEU Bank, as an assurance of supply mechanism of last resort, is that it must not distort the commercial market. The availability and operation of the IAEA LEU Bank is consistent with the rights of IAEA Member States to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. A Member State which needs to purchase LEU from the IAEA LEU Bank must have a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA in force and no issues relating to safeguards implementation in that Member State under consideration by the IAEA Board of Governors.