International Atomic Energy Agency opens atomic fuel reserve in Kazakhstan to ensure supply

Aug 29, 2017 10:01 IST

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in August 2017 decided to open the Low Enriched Uranium Bank in Kazakhstan.

The IAEA opened the bank to ensure the supply of nuclear fuel in the event of disruption due to political or market problems.

The reserve, scheduled to open on 29 August 2017, will store 90 tons of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU), the essential ingredient needed to make the fuel for light-water nuclear reactors, which generate electricity.

The LEU is usually purchased on the open market or by bilateral agreement between countries, a system the new bank does not want to disrupt.

The IAEA insists that the reserve is a "mechanism of last resort" for situations in which a United Nations member nation cannot access fuel by the usual means.

Criteria for member states to purchase uranium from the Bank

The International Atomic Energy Agency has established a series of strict criteria for a member state to request and purchase uranium from the bank.

First, there must be a disruption in supply "due to extraordinary circumstances" that would render the country in question unable to obtain fuel by the usual means.

Also, the IAEA must have certified that nuclear material has not been diverted by the country in the past and that the country complies with all safety measures.

In addition, the buying country must commit to using uranium only to produce fuel, never for weapons, and not to enrich it or transfer it to third parties without the express consent of the IAEA.

If these conditions are met and the uranium is purchased at the prevailing market price, the material will be introduced into special cylinders and transferred from northern Kazakhstan to a facility where LEU can be converted into fuel.

To ensure transport, the IAEA in 2015 had inked an agreement with Russia to allow the material to travel through the country.

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About International Atomic Energy Agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.

The agency was established as an autonomous organisation on 29 July 1957.

The IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.

It is headquartered in Vienna.

The IAEA and its former Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 7 October 2005.

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