Uranium & Fuel

IAEA LEU Bank / Final Shipment Arrives At Agency’s Kazakhstan Facility

By David Dalton
10 December 2019

Final Shipment Arrives At Agency’s Kazakhstan Facility
The IAEA LEU bank in Kazakhstan.
The International Atomic Energy Agency today received the second and final shipment of low-enriched uranium (LEU) at a purpose-built facility in Kazakhstan housing the agency’s LEU bank, which was established to provide assurance to countries about the supply of nuclear fuel.

The agency said in a statement that the delivery “completes the planned stock of the material that the IAEA LEU bank will hold, following the first shipment in October”.

The shipment came from Kazakhstan’s national atomic company Kazatomprom, the world’s largest producer of natural uranium. It delivered 28 cylinders of LEU to the facility at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk.

The uranium originated from Kazakhstan and was enriched at a facility in neighbouring Russia before the LEU was transported by train to the site in eastern Kazakhstan, where it was checked and officially accepted by IAEA experts.

Owned by the IAEA and hosted by Kazakhstan, the IAEA LEU bank is one of the agency’s most ambitious undertakings since it was founded in 1957. Plans for the facility were first passed by the IAEA board of governors in December 2010 and it became operational in October after the first shipment arrived from Orano of France.

Marta Ferrari, the IAEA’s acting project executive for the LEU bank, said with the arrival of the second shipment the bank now has sufficient material for about one complete core for a 1,000 MW pressurised water reactor.

The bank is fully funded by voluntary contributions from IAEA member states and other donors totalling $150m, covering estimated costs for at least 20 years of operation. Donors include the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the US, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Norway and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan contributed also in kind by hosting the IAEA LEU Bank.

The bank serves as an assurance of supply mechanism of last resort for member states that experience a supply disruption due to exceptional circumstances and are unable to secure nuclear power fuel from the commercial market, state-to-state arrangements or by any other means. It is a physical reserve of 90 tonnes of LEU, the basic ingredient to fabricate fuel for nuclear power plants.

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