Deputy FM: Kazakhstan has great chances for placing international nuclear fuel bank

Kazakhstan, Astana, Jan. 3 / Trend A. Maratov /

Kazakhstan is assessing its chances to become a country, where the IAEA international nuclear fuel bank can be placed, with optimism, Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov said.

"Taking into account that the Kazakh initiative has political support from Western countries and some developing countries, we are very optimistic about the chances of Kazakhstan to become a country where the international nuclear fuel bank will be placed", Umarov said in an interview with Trend.

The Governing Council of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a resolution on the establishment of the international nuclear fuel bank by a majority of votes on Dec. 3.

The IAEA Secretariat will choose possible locations for the international nuclear fuel bank in the nearest future. Kazakhstan's official application about readiness to place it on its territory and ensuring the proper storage of nuclear fuel was sent to the IAEA in January 2010.

According to the experts of the U.S Fund "Nuclear Threat Initiative" and the IAEA, Kazakhstan is an ideal candidate to place the international nuclear fuel bank, Umarov said.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has well-deserved reputation worldwide as the leader of the country. He made an invaluable contribution to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Umarov said.

Nazarbayev said that if the international nuclear fuel bank would be established, Kazakhstan could consider its placing on its territory.

"Kazakhstan realizes the consequences of uncontrolled use of sensitive technologies. So, we think that the establishment of the bank is a major contribution to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear technologies. It will contribute to strengthening of the international security", he said.

A multilateral mechanism for ensuring access of consumer countries to nuclear fuel on a non-discriminatory and stable basis in the long-term prospect is actively discussed for many years.

It is proposed to place the bank in a country not possessing nuclear weapons, not leading the work on its creation and fully open to IAEA inspectors to guarantee equal access to nuclear fuel.

The issue of placing the bank in Kazakhstan was discussed during 2010.

A joint statement was signed within the bilateral cooperation between Kazakhstan and the U.S on the nuclear security summit in Washington in April.

President Obama supported a proposal to place the bank in Kazakhstan.

The existence of a well-regulated legal basis increases the chances of Kazakhstan. It provides control over the export of nuclear materials and dual-use materials, Umarov said.

Kazakhstan created the appropriate infrastructure to place the Bank, he said. It is possible to use the already existing infrastructure of the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site or Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk.

"All facilities meet the requirements of a long-term storage of nuclear materials that meet the conditions of physical protection. They are under the IAEA guarantees," he said.

He added that Kazakhstan has great credibility in terms of objectivity and impartiality in international affairs. Placing the bank in the country will further enhance the international image of the republic as an active supporter of the non-proliferation regime.

"Getting the right to place the bank can positively affect the development of nuclear energy, improving scientific-technological base in Kazakhstan. It will facilitate the introduction of advanced technologies and experience exchange with the developed countries," Umarov said.

"The used nuclear fuel will not return to the country where the bank is situated. The project provides for buying a small volume of low-enriched nuclear fuel at the expense of donor countries and its storage in the storages already existing on the territory of Kazakhstan at the appropriate nuclear facilities," he explained.

According to the IAEA, the low-enriched uranium is not an attractive material for terrorists. Possessing a small quantity of the low-enriched uranium will not change the susceptibility of the enterprise, engaged in other activity, to terrorism.

The bank aims to strengthen the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the role of the IAEA and the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The bank will keep small guaranteed supply of low-enriched uranium to produce fuel assemblies for atomic power plants.

"The project is profitable from an economic point of view, as it allows to use existing production capacity and provide with jobs," Umarov said.

The project is not something unusual for Kazakhstan because the plant, producing nuclear fuel and situated in the territory, operates with such materials for more than a half of a century.

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