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Government decides against hosting an international nuclear fuel bank at the Ulba metallurgical plant

25 february 2013, 20:40
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Due to seismicity of the East Kazakhstan oblast the Kazakhstan’s Government has given up the idea of hosting a suggested international nuclear fuel bank at the Ulba metallurgical plant [engaged in production of hi-tech uranium, beryllium and tantalum products for the needs of the nuclear power industry], KazTag repots, citing the Regional Environment Safety Department.

“There will be no nuclear fuel bank hosted near the city of Ust Kamenogosrk. Such banks cannot be placed in seismically active territories”, Gennady Koreshkov, Director of the Department told.

According to him, another reason to renounce the idea was the decision of the Ulba plant’s executives not to expand the plant’s storage capacities.

In July last year the plant’s executives unveiled a draft plan to be considered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to host a nuclear fuel bank capable of storing 60 tons of low-enriched uranium that could be used by non-nuclear nations to develop peaceful nuclear industry.

Earlier Tengrinews.kz reported that an international bank of nuclear fuel was to be launched in Kazakhstan in 2013.

Timur Zhantikin, Head of the State Agency for Nuclear Power Industry, had stated late May 2012 that “plans are there to launch the bank in summer or autumn of 2013”. He made the announcement on the sidelines of the sitting of the CIS committee for peaceful nuclear power May 30, 2012.

He said at the time that “the timeline will depend on respective agreements between Kazakhstan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)”, adding that “prep works are under way at the Ulba metallurgical plant to host the bank”.

“The Ulba facility has been dealing with such [nuclear] materials for quite a while [it was established in 1949]. It possesses the needed infrastructure, expertise and trained personnel. There is nothing new for Kazakhstan: these are nuclear materials that the Ulba facility has been working with”, the Head of the Agency said back then.

“Part of the storage at the Ulba plant will be used to store 60 tons of nuclear materials owned by the IAEA”, he said, emphasizing that for Kazakhstan it’s more of a political project to contribute to the global non-proliferation efforts.

A nuclear fuel bank is a proposed approach to provide countries access to enriched nuclear fuel, without the need for them to possess enrichment technology. The basic concept is that countries who do have enrichment technology would donate enriched fuel to a "bank", from which countries not possessing enrichment technology would obtain fuel for their power reactors.

Back in 2009 Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev suggested hosting an international nuclear fuel bank in the Kazakh territory. The idea was approved of by the IAEA in 2011.

The Kazakh Agency for Nuclear Power was launched May 7, 2012.

The IAEA is the world's center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up in 1957 as the world's "Atoms for Peace" organization within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

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