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Kazakhstan to host global reserve of key nuclear fuel ingredient

Randomly selected UF6 cylinders are weighed as part of the inspection verification procedure. Here, an operator from the fuel fabrication facility, Westinghouse Electric Sweden hoists cylinders weighing nearly 3000 kilos onto the scale. (Westinghouse Electric Sweden in Västerås, Sweden. November 2005)

A reserve bank of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU)—the basic ingredient of nuclear fuel—will be established in Kazakhstan as part of global efforts to ensure its availability.

That information comes from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which on Thursday signed an agreement with the Central Asian country to set up the facility.

The bank will act as a supplier of last resort for IAEA member states in the event they cannot obtain LEU on the global market.

Dianne Penn reports.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—known as the UN nuclear watchdog—said the bank will hold a reserve of Low Enriched Uranium, or LEU, that’s sufficient to power a large city for three years.

It will be located at a plant in north-eastern Kazakhstan that has been handling and storing nuclear material for more than 60 years.

The LEU bank will be subjected to the UN agency’s safeguards.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano expressed confidence that it will operate safely and securely.

The LEU Bank was funded through US$150 million from donors that include the United States, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Norway and Kazakhstan.

This amount will cover the first 10 years of its operation, according to the UN agency.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.