The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today received the second and final shipment of low-enriched uranium (LEU) at a purpose-built facility in Kazakhstan housing the IAEA LEU Bank, which was established to provide assurance to countries about the supply of nuclear fuel. The delivery completes the planned stock of the material that the IAEA LEU Bank will hold, following the first shipment in October.
Kazakhstan’s JSC National Atomic Company Kazatomprom – the world’s largest producer of natural uranium – delivered 28 cylinders of LEU to the facility at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) 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.
“With the arrival of the second shipment, the IAEA LEU Bank stock is now complete,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said. “I remember when the project was discussed and agreed in the IAEA Board of Governors in 2010, and I am very pleased that the Agency met the challenge and delivered on what the international community requested.”
Marta Ferrari, the IAEA’s Acting Project Executive for the IAEA LEU Bank, was at the site to inspect the consignment and sign the delivery documents. “With the arrival of the second shipment of LEU from Kazatomprom, the IAEA LEU Bank now has a sufficient amount of material for approximately one complete core for a 1000 MW(e) pressurized water reactor.”
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, covering estimated costs for at least 20 years of operation. Donors include the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the United States, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Norway and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan contributed also in kind by hosting the IAEA LEU Bank.
“We would like to thank the donors for their generous contributions and the very helpful cooperation offered by Kazakhstan, China and the Russian Federation,” Director General Grossi added.
In December 2010, the IAEA Board of Governors authorized the Director General to establish the IAEA LEU Bank to serve 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.