International Current Affairs

IAEA opens world’s first low Enriched Uranium bank in Kazakhstan

The UN global nuclear watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has opened world’s first low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank in Oskemen in Kazakhstan.

The bank is owned and managed by IAEA. It will be the first of its kind LEU bank not to be under control of any individual country. The IAEA also manages 123 tons of uranium in Angarsk, Russia but it is under the control of Russian government.

Key Facts

The LEU Bank has reserve capacity to store 90 tons of LEU, the essential ingredient needed to make the fuel for light-water nuclear reactors, which generate electricity. This reserve is enough to fully load a light-water reactor capable of supplying electricity to a large city for three years.

The IAEA has established a series of strict criteria for member state purchasing uranium from the bank. The project was funded by donors, including the United States, European Union, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Norway and Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Purpose of Bank

Last resort Supply:  It will serve as last resort source of LEU after IAEA member countries are unable to either produce fuel or if it becomes unavailable on the international market for whatever reason. It will ensure that in the event of an international crisis or similar circumstances, countries dependent on nuclear power would still have access to uranium.

Non-proliferation efforts: It will discourage countries from developing their own uranium enrichment capacities as seen supposedly that peaceful use of enriched uranium can be converted into weapons-grade level.

No disruption to nuclear fuel trade: It will not disrupt usual trade of nuclear fuel purchased in the open market or by bilateral agreement between countries.

Peaceful use of atomic energy: It will ensure peaceful use of atomic energy without the need to develop a costly enrichment program. It will assure that suppliers in the international markets do not manipulate prices or when LEU ceases to be supplied for political reasons.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

IAEA is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. It was established as an autonomous organization in 1957 through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute. It is independent of the United Nations but reports to both the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and Security Council (UNSC).The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

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August 29: International Day Against Nuclear Tests

The International Day Against Nuclear Tests was observed across the world on 29 August with an aim to raise awareness about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions.

Observance of the day seeks to promote peace and security world-wide and calls for urgent need to prevent nuclear catastrophes to avert devastating effects on humankind, environment and the planet. It also highlights urgent need for cessation of nuclear weapons as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

To mark this day, various events were organised across the world such as symposia, conferences, exhibits, competitions, publications, instruction in academic institutions.

International Day Against Nuclear Tests

The International Day against Nuclear Tests was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) by unanimously adopting resolution 64/35 in December 2009. The resolution was initiated by Kazakhstan with support of large number of sponsors and cosponsors with a view to commemorate closure of Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site on 29 August 1991. The Day was first observed in 2010 and since then observed annually to galvanize the necessity of banning nuclear weapon tests.

Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site

The Semipalatinsk Test Site (also known as The Polygon) was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. It is located on the steppe in northeast Kazakhstan (then the Kazakh SSR part of USSR), south of the valley of the Irtysh River. The Soviet Union had conducted 456 nuclear tests on this site from 1949 until 1989 including 340 underground and 116 atmospheric explosions (roughly the equivalent of 2500 Hiroshima atomic bombs) with little regard for their effect on the local people or environment.

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