IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank

The IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank is an assurance of supply mechanism of last resort, and a physical reserve of LEU available for eligible IAEA Member States.

The IAEA LEU Bank is a reserve of low enriched uranium hexafluoride owned and controlled by the IAEA, and a mechanism of last resort for Member States in case the supply of LEU to a nuclear power plant is disrupted due to exceptional circumstances that disable securing the fuel from the commercial market or any other supply arrangement.

The IAEA LEU Bank is located at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Oskemen, Kazakhstan and is under the responsibility of the appropriate local authorities for safety, security and safeguards in Kazakhstan.

The IAEA LEU Bank is a physical stock of 90 metric tons of low enriched uranium hexafluoride suitable to make fuel for a typical light water reactor, the most widely used type of nuclear power reactor worldwide. The LEU contained within the Bank can be used to produce enough nuclear fuel to power a large city for three years.

The Bank provides 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.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev in August 2017 inaugurated the IAEA LEU Bank Storage Facility. In 2018, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed contracts to purchase low enriched uranium (LEU), paving the way towards the establishment of the IAEA LEU Bank in 2019. The IAEA LEU Bank was established and became operational on 17 October 2019 with the receipt of 32 full 30B cylinders of LEU. The physical stock of LEU in the IAEA LEU Bank was completed with the receipt of an additional 28 full 30B cylinders of LEU on 10 December 2019.

The Bank is part of global efforts to create an assured supply of nuclear fuel to countries in the event 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 the UK-led proposal for a Nuclear Fuel Assurance (NFA) based on non-interruption of commercial contracts for enrichment services. 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.

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