The world’s first international low enriched uranium (LEU) bank is taking shape on a snowy landscape in the northeast Kazakhstan city of Ust-Kamenogorsk. The remote region is known for its large mining and metals industry, and the new LEU bank is being built on the grounds of the Ulba Metallurgic Plant (UMP), one of the world’s largest producers of fuel for nuclear power plants.
The LEU bank, which is expected to be ready for operation by September, will provide countries with an assured LEU supply for peaceful purposes in case of market supply disruptions. In addition, it will provide a resource countries can use instead of developing their own enrichment capacity, which would increase the risk of proliferation of potentially dangerous nuclear material and technology.
NTI and NTI advisor Warren Buffett were catalysts of the LEU bank in 2006. That was when Mr. Buffett committed $50 million to the project, contingent upon the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) receiving an additional $100 million in funding, a condition that was met in 2009. Construction of the new LEU bank facility began in August 2016.
“It’s exciting to see the construction underway,” said Andrew Bieniawski, NTI Vice President for Material Security and Minimization. “We look forward to completion of the project and commend the continued efforts of the IAEA and the Government of Kazakhstan to establish the international LEU bank.”