Yaderny Kontrol: About the IUEC, the Bank of LEU and Uranium Enrichment Market: Blitz-interviews with Russian and foreign experts on the achievements and prospects of the IUEC. Part 3

January 18, 2018

 In ten years after the establishment of the IUEC, a similar project was launched in Kazakhstan-the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium Bank, which was supported by the IUEC management team. Is it possible to say that the uranium enrichment services market is now oversaturated, or is there still a need to create a network of such centers, as the President Putin initially admitted when making his initiative on the IUEC?

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

Indeed, presently, the existing uranium enrichment facilities exceed the demand of the world nuclear power industry in enriched uranium. In this regard, the countries that develop the nuclear power industry are guaranteed to cover their demands at the existing market of the uranium enrichment services. However, even in this case the activities of international centers similar to the IUEC might be attractive for countries, especially in the regional context. In the future, the development of nuclear power industry in the world along with increasing demand for enriched uranium and involvement to the orbit of nuclear power industry of the countries that do not possess the technologies in the field of the nuclear fuel cycle, there could be created the preconditions for practical implementation of the ideas international centres in rendering of nuclear fuel cycle services, as it was proposed in the initiative of the President of the Russian Federation in 2006. In this regard, the practical experience accumulated by the IUEC seems to be in demand.

Mr. Valery Bychkov, an independent expert, an employee of the IAEA safeguards department (1981-1985, 1987-2007):

It should be noted that the IUEC and Kazakhstan Bank do not provide the reactor fuel in the form of a final product, that is, the fuel assemblies. Therefore, there is a potential for further economic cooperation between the countries that are the current and future participants of the IUEC in bringing the nuclear material to the fuel assemblies for the reactors of various designs. This would be a real step towards establishment of a regional nuclear fuel cycle, which would, among the other things, contribute to further strengthening of the non-proliferation regime.

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

I believe that there is no need to create new centers now. The nuclear fuel market is stable and sufficient. There is no perspective for a rapid growth of global nuclear power industry in the foreseeable period.

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

Along with development of nuclear programs in the embarking countries the interest to the IUEC will grow up, but it does not seem to happen too rapidly, and the establishment of a new IUEC is hardly needed. The problem is that forecasts on a possible rapid grow in the development of world nuclear power industry are unlikely to come true. Even nuclear researchers more and more frequently say that in the future nuclear power can be pushed down by the cheaper types of the energy production. For example, the potential of bioenergy is now increasing, while in tropical countries there is a possibility of mass cultivation of algae that can be used as fuel. The consequences of the Chernobyl and Fukushima tragedies will also adversely affect the further development of nuclear power industry. An example of Germany again shows that a developed country can in principle do without nuclear power. Therefore, it seems that new IUEC will not appear, but as the nuclear power industry develops slowly in some countries, the market for services in this area will also not be oversaturated, at least in the near future.

Mr. Ali Soltanieh, Adviser to Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Iranian envoy to IAEA (1982-1987, 2006-2013):

I welcome any initiative such as IUEC, which implies a non-discriminatory, secure and long-term supplies of nuclear fuel in the peaceful purposes, without prejudice to the inalienable right of any country to have enrichment program if it so decide. At the same time, the IAEA Bank of Low Enriched Uranium in Kazakhstan partially duplicates [IUEC in this regard].

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):

The storage facility for the IAEA owned and administered the Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank, located at the Ulba Metalurgical Plant at Ust-Kamenogork/Oskemen in Kazakhstan was inaugurated on 29 August 2017. The IAEA presently is in the process of issuing tenders for the purchase of some 60 tonnes of LEU. The IUEC would be well placed to supply LEU to the IAEA derived from natural uranium supplied by Kazakhstan that is enriched at the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Complex (AECC) at a commercially favourable price and without “flags” (restrictions on supply of the LEU by the IAEA to an eligible Member State). The status of the IUEC could be further enhanced in the context of MNAs and assurances of supply, were the IAEA to select the IUEC as the supplier of flag-free LEU for the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan. The partner States of the IUEC – Armenia, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation and Ukraine – need to insist and ensure that the IAEA purchases the required LEU for the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan utilizing the services of the IUEC – for the IAEA to do otherwise would do a disservice to the cause of MNAs. For the time being, the prospects remain unfavourable for the establishment of additional international nuclear fuel cycle centres, however, the Russian Federation and the IUEC, with the support of Kazakhstan and Ukraine, could take the lead in proposing international cooperation in the “back-end” of the nuclear fuel cycle for the disposition of spent nuclear fuel of nuclear power plants.

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