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IAEA Fuel Bank Could Open in 2013

Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov, shown in 2011, said an International Atomic Energy Agency-monitored nuclear fuel bank planned in his country could begin operations before the end of next year (U.N. photo). Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov, shown in 2011, said an International Atomic Energy Agency-monitored nuclear fuel bank planned in his country could begin operations before the end of next year (U.N. photo).

An unprecedented multilateral repository of fissile nuclear power plant material could open its doors in Kazakhstan in the latter part of 2013, the nation’s top diplomat told the Wall Street Journal in remarks reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Jan. 30).

Washington and European governments have pursued talks on the planned site with Kazakhstan in an effort to provide incipient state atomic power programs with a reliable alternative to establishing their own nuclear fuel production capabilities. The planned facility would open with a 60-ton low-enriched uranium capacity.

Uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing can generate power plant fuel as well as nuclear-bomb ingredients.

Kazakhstan wishes to wrap up talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency before this summer on the site’s placement, Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov said. Access to the facility’s nuclear material would be limited to countries in compliance with standards laid out by the U.N. agency, which would regularly monitor the site, the Journal reported.

"We think it's an important initiative because it further strengthens nuclear nonproliferation" around the world, Kazykhanov said. "Any country that needs low-enriched uranium to fuel ... their power plants can get access to this bank."

The uranium for the site would be refined in Russia prior to its transfer to Kazakhstan, the minister added.

The time line for the facility’s opening is not “set in stone,” but related talks with the Kazakh government are moving forward, an IAEA insider said.

The Vienna, Austria-based organization and other entities have committed $150 million toward the site’s establishment (Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 7).

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Country Profile

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Kazakhstan

This article provides an overview of Kazakhstan’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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