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IAEA fuel ‘bank’ on course

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general Yukiya Amano yesterday updated the agency’s board of governors on recent developments including the IAEA’s storage facility for low-enriched uranium (LEU) – known as the LEU Bank – which will be inaugurated on 29 August and should receive its first uranium in 2018.

The facility, at the Ulba Metallaurgical Plant in Oskemen in Kazakshtan, will host a physical reserve of up to 90 tonnes of LEU suitable for making nuclear fuel and will act as a supplier of last resort for IAEA member states should they find themselves unable to obtain the material on the global commercial market or otherwise. This, the IAEA says, will enable countries interested in using nuclear power to be confident they will be able to obtain LEU for nuclear fuel in the event of unforeseen, non-commercial disruption to their supplies. The facility is seen as an important part of international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, dissuading countries from building uranium enrichment facilities by guaranteeing access to LEU for fuel use should other sources fail.

Amano said construction of the facility was proceeding on schedule, with an inauguration ceremony – which he plans to attend – on 29 August. “We continue to work on the LEU Procurement Plan and aim to have an LEU acquisition contract in place before the end of 2017. Our goal is that all the LEU acquired will be transported to the storage facility in 2018. The IAEA LEU Bank will then have been established,” he said.

The bank will be owned and controlled by the IAEA and has been funded by the European Union (€24.4 million, $26 million), Kuwait ($10 million), Norway ($5 million), the United Arab Emirates ($10 million), the USA ($49 million) and US-based organisation Nuclear Threat Initiative ($50 million). Kazakhstan has contributed funding of $400,000 plus in-kind contributions.

Safeguards and verification

Amano also told the board of governors that its safeguards agreement with Pakistan concerning units 2 and 3 of the Karachi nuclear power plant, approved by the board in March, had entered into force in May. The two Chinese-designed Hualong One units are planned to enter commercial operation in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

A total of 182 states now have safeguards agreements in force, and 129 have additional protocols, Amano said, and called for parties to the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty without comprehensive safeguards agreements in force to bring such agreements into force without delay. “I hope that States which have not yet concluded additional protocols will do so as soon as possible,” he said.

Source: World Nuclear News

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