Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 11 June approved an agreement with Kazakhstan to stablished a Bank of low-enriched uranium, media reports citing press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In his speech at the opening session of the Board of Governors, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stressed the importance of the creation of the Bank, which would give IAEA Member-States access to the fuel in case of their inability to obtain it on the global commercial market.
"Gratitude was expressed to Kazakhstan for its constructive cooperation and contribution to the creation of the Bank. Attention is drawn to the fact that our country is a world leader in the production of uranium, has the necessary experience in the nuclear field and highly qualified personnel," the press service of the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
Speaking at the same meeting, the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to International Organizations in Vienna Kairat Sarybai noted that the project to establish the LEU Bank in Kazakhstan was the first one of its kind in history. Creating international reserves of low-enriched uranium under the auspices of the Agency guarantees access for its Member States to obtain nuclear fuel without infringing their sovereign right to develop their own peaceful nuclear energy programs in accordance with the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA Statute.
The signing of the Agreement on the Establishment of the Bank is tentatively scheduled for the end of August 2015. According to Director General of the IAEA, after the signing of the document, it will take about two years to finalize the work on the creation and opening of the storage.
"The central element of the Bank is its physical stock of low-enriched uranium of standard commercial specification with enrichment of uranium-235 to 4.95 percent in the form of hexafluoride, which is enough for about one full loading of a reactor core or three reboots of a water reactor pressurized by 1000 megawatts. The IAEA will be the owner of low enriched uranium, stored in the Bank, LEU will be under its control and in its official legal possession. The Bank will be located at Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk," the Ministry said.
Funding of the project in the amount of $150 million transferred to the IAEA is made up of voluntary contributions from the following countries and organizations: the Nuclear Threat Initiative - $50 million, Norway - $5 million, USA - $49.54 million, UAE - $10 million dollars, Kuwait - $10 million and the EU - up to €25 million.
However, in Kazakhstan, not everyone is impressed with the idea of the creation of such a bank. Many are afraid of environmental dangers posed by such storage.
To this, Director of the Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology of the National Nuclear Center Sergey Lukashenko replies with numbers.
"Firstly, talking about leakage - it is unlikely to happen. But even if suddenly something happens, I just want to clarify that in terms of the radiation hazard, low enriched uranium is practically no different from regular uranium in its radiation characteristics and the degree of danger. As far as I know, we (Kazakhstan) produce 20,000 tons of uranium annually. Therefore, the danger of 60-80 tons of extra storage will be no more than that of any warehouse on any mine," he said .
The Central Communication Services.