ASTANA, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) opened a Low Enriched Uranium Bank (LEU) in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the opening of the bank is a very important event for Kazakhstan.
The LEU bank, aiming at safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, is going to use the facility worth 150-million U.S. dollars to discourage new states from enriching the nuclear fuel.
"As a state possessing large volumes of uranium-containing raw materials, we contribute to the peaceful use of atomic energy," President Nazarbayev said at the opening ceremony.
The LEU Bank, based in Ust-Kamenogorsk in the East Kazakhstan region, will store nuclear fuel and sell it to the IAEA members if they have any problems to get it elsewhere.
"The LEU Bank will serve as a last-resort mechanism to provide confidence to countries that they will be able to obtain LEU for the manufacture of fuel for nuclear power plants in the event of an unforeseen, non-commercial disruption to their supplies," IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said on Monday.
Amano highlighted the importance of the LEU bank opening, saying, "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."
The press service of the IAEA has reported that it is going to start buying uranium in the near future, aiming to ship it to the bank in the next year.
The project was funded by donors which include the U.S., the European Union, Kuwait, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
The bank will host up to 90 tons of low-enriched uranium, which is enough to run a 1,000 MW light water reactor or power a large city for three years.
Kazakhstan is a leading producer of uranium, boasting more than 15 percent of global uranium reserves.
Russia already established a such bank in 2010, but Kazakhstan LEU Bank is the first one fully owned and managed by the IAEA.