Kazakhstan aims for peaceful use of nuclear energy with new bank

By Shakhrat Nuryshev Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/28 21:18:39

Because of the increase in the number of countries that are conducting their own developments in the nuclear field, the idea of creating nuclear fuel banks arose. Considerable efforts have been made to develop nuclear fuel production technologies that would be protected from being used for military purposes. One of the options for supplying nuclear plants with nuclear fuel was the proposal to create an international reserve for such fuel.

In 2006, the American Nuclear Threat Initiative Foundation proposed the creation of an International Nuclear Fuel Bank under the auspices of the IAEA, whose goal was to establish a mechanism that ensures guaranteed international nuclear fuel supplies to states fulfilling their nonproliferation obligations. That is, countries that do not possess and do not want to possess technologies for manufacturing nuclear fuel could be provided fuel from the bank.

In November 2010, a number of Member States formally proposed the establishment of a low-enriched uranium bank of the IAEA. The concept of the IAEA Bank differs from earlier proposed schemes. It will not be a source of supply or a "fuel shop," but it will be a reserve for an emergency, if suddenly a member country of the IAEA cannot get fuel from a traditional supplier for political reasons.

In 2011, the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, based on the principles of the policy of non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, proposed to place a Low Enriched Uranium Bank (LEUB) in the country.

In 2012, based on the results of an open bid, Kazakhstan became the only candidate country for placing a LEUB.

To create the LEUB, Kazakhstan was able to offer a suitable site that has the necessary storage conditions and corresponding safety parameters - the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP). The UMP is one of the oldest uranium industry enterprises in Kazakhstan with developed infrastructure and highly professional specialists. Since 1995, all activities of the UMP in the handling of nuclear materials are under the control of IAEA inspectors.

During the creation of the bank, Kazakhstan adhered to the following principles:

First, the creation of nuclear fuel banks under IAEA control will help strengthen the non-proliferation regime. The creation of fuel banks will not disrupt market mechanisms for the functioning of the nuclear industry and will be an acceptable alternative to the diffusion of sensitive technologies.

Second, the IAEA reserves of nuclear fuel will contribute to the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and to ensure access of states to peaceful nuclear technologies.

Third, the establishment of the LEUB will not infringe on the rights of IAEA member states to create their own production capacity within the nuclear fuel cycle.

One of the main features of the bank is that - the fuel will be under full control of the IAEA and in its official legal possession.

Kazakhstan and the leadership of the IAEA believe that this multilateral mechanism should not be politicized, discriminatory and should be accessible to all states that fulfill the safeguards agreements. The transfer of nuclear materials should be determined by non-political criteria and applied objectively and consistently.

Safety during the transportation and storage of uranium is ensured by the use of special containers having a high degree of strength. Containers exclude any leakage of radioactive materials and completely screen the radiation of low enriched uranium. Containers are certified by the IAEA and designed to withstand even large-scale natural and man-made disasters. They are designed for up to 100 years of operation.

 The cost of this project was $150 million, which includes the purchase of about 60 to 80 tons of low-enriched uranium and its delivery to the location of the IAEA Bank in Kazakhstan.

The opening ceremony of the creating of the IAEA LEUB in Kazakhstan will take place on August 29, 2017.

The author is Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the People's Republic of China. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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