ASTANA – Following the approval by the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of a host-state agreement with Kazakhstan on establishing a low-enriched uranium (LEU) bank in Kazakhstan, IAEA Project Executive on the LEU bank Terry Wood briefed the Kazakh media on June 18 in Astana about the bank.
“We have a very short explanation about what low-enriched uranium or LEU actually is. The first and most important point and I want to make this as clear as possible – low-enriched uranium is not nuclear waste, so… it can be very safely stored, handled and managed for a long period of time,” said Wood.
The IAEA expert reminded that low-enriched uranium is the major component needed to make nuclear fuel. In this regard, he addressed concerns voiced in the media about the safety of cylinders used to store LEU at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) in Ust-Kamenogorsk, the site of the new facility.
“It has been shown through a number of tests to be sturdy, reliable in storage as well as transportation. Hundreds of these cylinders are moved by the nuclear industry every week; there have been thousands and millions of movements without any incidents involving low-enriched uranium. So low-enriched uranium is … at the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, as we say,” he said.
Answering journalists’ questions, Wood assured that the LEU Bank will be safe from natural influences, including the seismic hazards, and that its uranium will be transported in steel containers in accordance with international standards.
The expert commended the UMP’s readiness to host the low-enriched uranium bank.
“It is very important to recognise that the Ulba Metallurgical Plant has 60 years of safe and secure experience and operations. We are dealing with well-experienced, very knowledgeable [people], and we are very confident that the [IAEA LEU bank] will be safely and securely stored at UMP.”
According to the speaker, the first deliveries to the LEU bank are planned within two years after the signing of the host state agreement, which is expected to be signed in August.