The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on December 10, 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, the agency said. The first shipment was delivered 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 neighboring 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.
Marta Ferrari, the IAEA’s Acting Project Executive for the IAEA LEU Bank, said the 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.
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.
UMP, as the facility operator, has the prime responsibility for safety and security of the IAEA LEU Bank and shall apply IAEA safety standards and nuclear security guidance documents. The IAEA will perform review missions periodically to ensure that UMP continues to operate the facility in accordance with them.
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, Russian Federation, and an assurance of supply guaranty by the United Kingdom for supplies of LEU enrichment services.
Globally, there are around 450 nuclear power reactors in operation today, supplying about 10 percent of the world’s electricity and one-third of all low-carbon electricity. Fifty-two additional nuclear power reactors are currently under construction.
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