Kazakhstan to seal international nuclear fuel bank

By bne IntelliNews February 18, 2014

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Kazakhstan is in the final stages of talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on plans to host an international nuclear fuel bank.

As the range of countries investing into nuclear power plants grows, the bank will make it possible for them to buy fuel rather than setting up their own enrichment plants. The launch of the international bank then is designed to help prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"Kazakhstan is to host the international bank for low-enriched uranium and the IAEA is currently finalizing negotiations on an agreement," says a statement from the Kazakh ministry of foreign affairs. "We believe that the development of multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel , including the creation of guaranteed nuclear fuel reserves will promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy."

A final decision on the bank was expected in 2013, but talks are still ongoing, the statement added. Kazakhstan is the world's leading uranium producer, and turned out 38% of global production last year. Seventeen uranium mining projects run in the country, 12 of them joint ventures with foreign partners.

Astana has offered the Soviet-built Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk, at the very eastern end of the country, as the site for the fuel bank, which will store and distribute low-enriched uranium internationally. In 2012, the head of state nuclear agency Kazatomprom claimed the plant is one of the safest places in the world for uranium storage.

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