The International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) in Angarsk, Russia will serve as a reference point for similar regional International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)-sponsored fuel 'banks', the Vienna-based agency's director general, Yukiya Amano, said last week. Speaking to reporters during his visit to the site of Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Complex and IUEC on 20 June, Amano also said the IAEA may one day revisit a proposal to set up an international centre for the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel.
The guaranteed physical reserve of low-enriched uranium (LEU) maintained by Russia at the IUEC is one of several global efforts to create an assured supply of nuclear fuel. Other assurance of supply mechanisms, established with IAEA approval, include a proposed LEU fuel bank in Kazakhstan and a UK assurance of supply guarantee for supplies of LEU enrichment services. The USA also operates its own LEU reserve.
"The LEU bank in Angarsk will be a very good reference design for other regional LEU banks, which are planned to be created in the future, such as the LEU bank in Kazakhstan," Amano said, according to Nuclear.ru. The IUEC "was created very effectively and will be a model for similar projects in the future," he added.
The IAEA last week signed a transit agreement for the transport of LEU and equipment through Russia to and from an IAEA LEU bank being set up in Kazakhstan. The LEU bank, which the IAEA approved earlier this month, will be built at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Oskemen.
Asked whether the IAEA planned to establish other regional banks, in addition to the one planned in Kazakhstan, Amano said that this project involves "an enormous amount of work" and that his priority is its successful completion.
"The idea of reprocessing used nuclear fuel with the participation of several countries has already matured and investigations into this are under way, but I believe that this matter should be discussed in the future," Amano reportedly said. Amano was responding to the question whether international centres would be created for the various stages of the nuclear fuel cycle. The final stage of the nuclear fuel cycle is "of a different nature" to the idea of an international bank of low-enriched uranium, "so there has been limited progress", he said.
Established in 2007, the IUEC provides uranium enrichment services to its shareholders through guaranteed access to the enrichment and conversion capacities of all Russian enterprises. Its creation followed Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement the previous year of Russia's intention to develop a network of multilateral nuclear fuel cycle centers. These centers would provide assured nuclear fuel cycle services to states on a non-discriminatory basis, while limiting the proliferation of uranium enrichment technology. The IUEC was incorporated as a joint venture between Russia's TENEX and Kazakhstan's Kazatomprom.