Yaderny Kontrol: On the results of IUEC activities: Blitz-interviews with Russian and foreign experts on the achievements and prospects of the IUEC. Part 1

January 18, 2018

 In 2017 the International Uranium Enrichment Center (IUEC) celebrated its 10th anniversary. The Ukraine continues to cooperate with the Center actively, Armenia and Kazakhstan support the membership, the accession of a new state is under discussions. How do you assess the results of IUEC activities over the past decade?

Mr. Vladimir Kuchinov, Advisor of the General Director of the State Corporation Rosatom:

The activities of the IUEC over the past decade can be assessed very positively. This Center rather quickly passed the way from the moment of signature of the basic documents to the beginning of practical activities. If at the time of the IUEC establishment in September 2007 there were only two member-countries: Russia and Kazakhstan, then already in 2010 it was joined by the Ukraine, and in 2012 - by Armenia. In 2010 the IUEC was entered into the list of facilities to be the subject of the IAEA safeguards pursuant to the agreement between Russia (the USSR) and the IAEA on voluntary subjection under the Agency safeguards of some installations on the territory of Russia. In July 2010 the IAEA selected the IUEC from this list and began to apply its safeguards to it. In the same 2010 on the basis of the IUEC was created a guarantee stock of low-enriched uranium, which became a part of assurances of supplies for the IAEA member-states, where supplies were terminated not for technical or commercial reasons.

Dr. Mikhail Lysenko, Assistant Professor of MGIMO, the Director of International Cooperation Department in the State Corporation Rosatom (2008-2014):

[My assessment of the results of IUEC activities over the past decade] is certainly positive. The IUEC has fulfilled an important political task. He showed that the goal set in its "ideology" - to create an effective alternative to the attempts of individual countries to establish their own enrichment production - was achieved. At the same time, the IUEC itself remained outside of politics, as it evidenced by the participation of the Ukraine in it. Another benefit is that the IUEC was able to secure its commercial profitability.

Mr. Alexander Cheban, a researcher at the Odessa Center for Nonproliferation:

I positively assess the activities of the IUEC, because it contributes to solving the problems of nuclear proliferation, and also helps the member-countries to resolve the issues in the development of their nuclear power industries. Nevertheless, the Ukraine, most likely, will have to seriously think about how to minimize its participation in the IUEC. There is no fault of the Center itself, which brilliantly fulfilled its obligations to the Ukrainian State Concern "Nuclear Fuel". But Ukraine turned out to be a hostage to the complex political circumstances, and extremely tense relations with Russia, the Ukraine often have to take politically motivated decisions, neglecting the economic benefits. The political advantages of achieving maximum full independence from any supply from Russia, according to many Ukrainians, outweigh the possible economic losses of the Ukraine due to the termination of the cooperation with Russia.

It is interesting to note that among the Ukrainian nuclear specialists there are different opinions about the need to continue receiving the nuclear fuel from Russia. Sometimes one hears the opinion that often experts, justifying the arguments pro and contra of the supply of Russian nuclear fuel to the Ukrainian nuclear power plants, are guided by their own political preferences. For example, those Ukrainian nuclear engineers that support rapprochement with Russia, find more arguments to continue to participate in the IUEC and waiver of fuel supplies from the American company Westinghouse. The application of the latter at the Ukrainian NPPs actually involves certain technical difficulties, but, as far as can be judged on the basis of expert estimates, these technical difficulties are really can be overcome, and optionally, the Ukraine in principle can refuse in the future from Russian nuclear fuel.

It's another matter that such a desire may not be enough for the Ukrainian leadership. The Ukrainian participation in the projects of the IUEC has already been extended at least until 2020, and it is likely to be extended after this date. Although the Ukrainian authorities would prefer to abandon the Russian supplies, but in coming years the attention of the Ukrainian elite will likely divert the constant power struggle between different factions of the ruling, and in these circumstances, it is unlikely that the Ukraine seriously would deal with measures aimed at minimization of the Russian nuclear fuel supply.

Tariq Rauf: Coordinator at the IAEA, Multilateral Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle; IAEA LEU Reserve at Angarsk; IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan; Nuclear Fuel Assurance (2003-2012):

It is highly commendable that the IUEC established in 2007 is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2017. The concept of an IUEC was first initiated by the Russian President Vladimir Putin in the context of the lead up to the 2006 G8 St. Petersburg Summit and followed the October 2003 initiative of the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei calling for a new approach to the sensitive elements of the nuclear fuel cycle – uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing – under a new multilateral framework for nuclear energy (MNA). On 25 January 2006, the President Putin proposed that the Russian Federation could host the first of several international nuclear fuel-cycle centres to inter alia provide enriched uranium for nuclear fuel for power reactors under the monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the context of assurance of supply as proposed by the IAEA Director General ElBaradei and by the IAEA International Expert Group on MNA. Accordingly, the Russian Federation decided to establish the first IUEC at the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Complex (AECC), with the objective to provide IUEC members with guaranteed access to uranium enrichment services at the AECC. IUEC member States would undertake not to develop national uranium enrichment capabilities on their territory, but instead to rely on the IUEC to provide them with low enriched uranium for fuel for their nuclear power plants (NPP) under IAEA full-scope safeguards. Kazakhstan was the first country to join the IUEC, followed by Ukraine and then Armenia. The IUEC shareholders are the ROSATOM (70%), the NAC Kazatomprom (10%), the (Ukrainian) State Concern Nuclear Fuel (10%), and the JSC Armenian NPP (10%). The IUEC foresees further shareholders in the future for 29% with the ROSATOM holding the majority share of 51%. The IAEA is invited to be as Observer at the IUEC Governing Board. Over the past five years, the IUEC has purchased natural uranium in the form of triuranium octoxide (U3O8) from Ukraine for fabrication of fuel assemblies for Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. Recently, on 17 November 2017, the IUEC completed the procedure for importing uranium oxide concentrate (UOC) from the Ukraine to ensure guaranteed supply of enriched uranium product (EUP) for fuel for fuel assemblies for Ukrainian nuclear power plants. Furthermore, the IUEC also administers the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium Reserve at the AECC. Thus, in sum, the IUEC has been successful in promoting MNAs, assurances of supply of EUP, obviating the need for uranium enrichment in its partner States, and hosting the IAEA LEU Reserve. This marks the successful operation of the first and only IUEC in the world, thus far.


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