A Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank was officially launched today by Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev to discourage new nations from enriching nuclear fuel themselves. (Reuters photo)

ASTANA(KAZAKHSTAN): A Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank was officially launched today by Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev to discourage new nations from enriching nuclear fuel themselves.

The US$150 million (RM640 million) facility in Oskemen, eastern Kazakhstan, was opened by Nursultan via a teleconference from here, on the day the world marks International Day against Nuclear Test.

The bank will be able to store up to 90 tonnes of the fuel, which is sufficient to run a 1,000 MWe light-water reactor or a large city for three years.

The agreement on LEU bank was signed on Aug 27, 2015 by the Kazakhstan government and the United Nations global nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“By being host to the IAEA LEU bank, Kazakhstan has made another contribution in strengthening the global non-proliferation regime,” said Nursultan during the launching ceremony after handing over a symbolic key to IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano.

“I am confident that the IAEA LEU Bank will make a valuable contribution to international efforts to ensure the availability of fuel for nuclear power plants,” he added.

The IAEA LEU Bank will only be established once the basic ingredient to fabricate nuclear fuel has been purchased and delivered to the Storage Facility.

Amano said the bank would serve as a last-resort mechanism in assuring countries (IAEA members) planning to obtain a LEU for the manufacture of fuel for nuclear power plants in the event of an unforeseen, non-commercial disruption to their supplies.

The bank is located at facility operator Ulba Metallurgical Plant's site.

Ulba Metallurgical Plant, in a statement, said if input material supply is disrupted, consumer countries could use the material stored in the LEU Bank.

"All the input material will be a sole property of IAEA and the agency will sell it only upon agreement with a particular company which will manufacture fuel pellets and fuel assembles.

“The LEU Bank establishment will allow considerably mitigating the risks of further nuclear weapon proliferation."

The LEU Bank is an easy-to-assemble building with the area of about 900 sq m, which meets the IAEA supplementary requirements to seismicity and physical protection.