UN OPENS ATOMIC FUEL RESERVE IN KAZAKHSTAN TO ENSURE SUPPLY

In News:

Ensuring the supply of nuclear fuel in the event of disruption due to political or market problems is the objective of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Low Enriched Uranium Bank, which opens this week in Kazakhstan.

Details:

Kazakhstan is all set to open the world’s first Low Enriched Uranium Bank in Oskemen. The International Atomic Energy Agency launched the project in 2010.

The bank will hold 90 tons of uranium—enough to power a large reactor for three years—and member states that withdraw from the bank will cover the cost of restocking.

To ensure transport, the IAEA signed an agreement with Russia in 2015 to allow the material to travel through the country.

What is it for?:

  • The bank will serve as a source of last resort for low-enriched uranium when IAEA members are unable to either produce it or if it becomes unavailable on the international market for whatever reason.
  • This function will help non-proliferation efforts. By providing uranium, it will disincentives countries from developing their own uranium enrichment capacities—as even supposedly peaceful programs could see uranium enriched to a weapons-grade level.
  • The bank seeks to ensure that in the event of an international crisis or similar circumstances, countries dependent on nuclear power would still have access to uranium.
  • The IAEA, which manages the reserve, has established a series of strict criteria for a member state to request and purchase uranium from the bank.

These criteria include:

  • First, there must be a disruption in supply “due to extraordinary circumstances” that would render the country in question unable to obtain fuel by the usual means.
  • In addition, the IAEA must have certified that nuclear material has not been diverted by the country in the past and that the country complies with all safety measures.
  • The buying country must commit to using uranium only to produce fuel, never for weapons, and not to enrich it or transfer it to third parties without the express consent of the IAEA.
  • If these conditions are met and the uranium is purchased at the prevailing market price, the material will be introduced into special cylinders and transferred from northern Kazakhstan, where the bank is located, to a facility where LEU can be converted into fuel.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA):

The IAEA is the world’s centre of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world´s “Atoms for Peace” organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. It also seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.

  • It is not under direct control of the UN. Though established independently of the United Nations through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
  • The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.
  • The IAEA Secretariat is headquartered at the Vienna International Centre in Vienna, Austria.
  • The IAEA serves as an intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear technology and nuclear power worldwide.
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