The preparations for the inauguration of the first Low Enriched Uranium Bank are nearing completion. The opening ceremony of the Low Enriched Uranium Bank, hosted by the Ulba Metallurgy Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk in eastern Kazakhstan, will take place on August 29, 2017. August 29 also marks the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
Talks on opening this institution began in 2010, at the initiative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Moreover, in 2011, the Republic of Kazakhstan volunteered to host the bank. In August 2015, the IAEA and the Republic of Kazakhstan signed the agreement to set up the first Low Enriched Uranium Bank, which entered in force in January 2017.
The establishment will operate as a last resort mechanism; in case of unforeseen disruptions on the uranium open market, member states of IAEA that are unable to procure uranium for their nuclear power plants will be able to request the quantity of low enriched uranium needed from the bank under certain conditions. The LEU Bank will have the capacity to store of up to 90 metric tons of low enriched uranium and it is owned and regulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
IAEA member states will be able to acquire the necesary quantity of low enriched uranium from the facility only if they meet the conditions imposed by IAEA and have received a formal approval from the IAEA General Director. In order to receive the solicited assistance, member states must meet the criteria: the supply of low enriched uranium to a nuclear power plant is disrupted due to exceptional circumstances impacting availability and/or transfer; the state is unable to secure low enriched uranium from the commercial market, State-to-State arrangements, or by any other such means; the IAEA bodies have not signaled in the most recent Report on the member state any diversion of use of the declared nuclear material; the state has in place a comprehensive safeguarding agreement with the IAEA and agrees to pay the full cost to re-stock the low enriched uranium which is designed to leave the Bank to the use of the soliciting member.
The security of the Low Enrichment Uranium Bank, Ulba Metallurgical Plant, will be provided by Kazakhstan and will meet IAEA’s safety standards and security guidance documents.
The LEU Bank is fully funded by voluntary contributions of the IAEA member states, its budget reaching a total of USD 150 million in order to ensure its establishment. Setting up the first institution of this kind forms part of a series of global actions aiming to secure the supply of low enriched uranium in case of extraordinary circumstances which could disrupt peaceful nuclear activities of IAEA member states. The first Low Enriched Uranium Bank aims to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation and to control the process of uranium enrichment on an international level.