The official ceremony to launch the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) nuclear fuel bank, to be sited in Kazakhstan, will be held on 27August, according to Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrissov. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, representatives of the six nations involved in talks to negotiate the Iranian nuclear programme, including Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry will be invited, Idrissov said in Geneva.
Under the agreement, low-enriched uranium (LEU) will be stored at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in north-eastern Kazakhstan, at a facility owned and controlled by the IAEA. The deal includes a transit agreement with the Russian Federation to permit the transport of IAEA LEU to and from the bank through its territory. The bank will provide less developed countries access to enriched nuclear fuel, without the need for them to possess enrichment technology. The facility will hold a physical reserve of up to 90t of LEU. A key principle is that that bank must not distort the open market. Once a state has signed a supply agreement with the IAEA, it must pay the full cost of re-stocking the LEU stored in the bank.
“This is a significant milestone in global nuclear cooperation that will enable peaceful uses of nuclear energy while reducing the risks of proliferation and catastrophic terrorism," said former US Senator Sam Nunn, co-chairman and CEO of the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).
The bank is fully funded by voluntary contributions including $50m from NTI, $49m from the USA, up to $25m from the European Union, $10m each from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and $5m from Norway.
The bank's safety and security will be governed by Kazakhstan's legal and regulatory requirements. It must also comply with applicable IAEA safety standards and security guidance, and will be subject to IAEA safeguards.
States requesting LEU from the bank must meet a set of criteria approved by the IAEA's board and must have in place, and be in compliance with, a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA. The LEU cannot be enriched, processed, retransferred or re-exported without IAEA agreement.