ASTANA. KAZINFORM President Nursultan Nazarbayev has opened the building of the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank in Kazakhstan during a teleconference, Kazinform correspondent reports. The Head of State handed over a symbolic key to the LEU Bank building to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano.
"It is a high privilege for the Ulba Metallurgical Plant that our site has been chosen to host the world's first Low Enriched Uranium Bank under the auspices of the IAEA. This demonstrates the impeccable reputation of the plant that has produced nuclear fuel components for over 40 years. The attitude of the plant staff members to this project is of maximum responsibility. The construction of the building for the bank was carried out in a timely manner and in compliance with all international and national requirements for nuclear, radiation and physical security. The act of commissioning of the completed project was signed on July 1, 2017. I am happy to report to you today that the building is completely ready for placing the IAEA LEU Bank," said Yuriy Shakhvorostov, the Board Chairman of the Ulba Metallurgical Plant. In turn, the IAEA LEU Bank Project Executive Mark Bassett confirmed that the bank building was built in accordance with the IAEA standards. "This means that this project will provide a high level of physical and non-physical safety for the LEU Bank," Mark Bassett said during the teleconference. The idea of creating nuclear fuel banks emerged as far back as in the last century since the increase in the number of the countries that started own nuclear developments. Considerable efforts have been made to develop nuclear fuel production technologies that would be secure from military use. One of the options for providing nuclear energy with nuclear fuel was the proposal to create an international reserve for such fuel. That is, the countries that do not have and do not want to have the nuclear fuel technologies could get the fuel from the bank.
Recall that the Board of Governors adopted the resolution on the IAEA LEU Bank establishment and relevant documents in December 2010. On May 27, 2011, the agency announced a tender for choosing the country to locate the bank. On July 29, Kazakhstan sent a bank placement application with the required information on two sites at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant and in the town of Kurchatov. In March 2012, the agency member states were informed that Kazakhstan became the only candidate country for placing the bank on its territory following the results of the open tender. In May 2012, the IAEA delegation visited Ust-Kamenogorsk and Astana. 22 rounds of negotiations had been held as of late July 2015. The bank agreement signing ceremony was held in Astana on August 27, 2015. It is noteworthy that the spent nuclear fuel will not be returned to the territory of the republic as per the existing regulations of the IAEA. The safety during transportation and storage of uranium is ensured by the use of special high-strength containers.
The containers rule out any leakage of radioactive materials and completely shield the radiation of low enriched uranium. The containers have been certified by the IAEA and designed to withstand even large-scale natural and man-made disasters. They have all the required strength properties and are meant for 80-100 years of operation. The material will be transported through the territories of other countries. This project finance of nearly $150 million transferred to the IAEA is made up of voluntary contributions from a number of countries and organizations. In view of the current market prices, the amount of $150 million will be sufficient to purchase about 60-80 tons of low-enriched uranium and deliver it to the IAEA Bank in Kazakhstan.