Kazakhstan and IAEA agreement to strengthen nuclear cooperation

20 April 2023

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and Kazakhstan's Minister of Energy Almasadam Satkaliyev signed a five year framework designed to "ensure closer interaction between the Agency and Kazakhstan in areas related to the development of nuclear power infrastructure, nuclear and radiation safety, food security and nuclear medicine".

The IAEA's Grossi (third from right) tours the LEU Bank (Image: IAEA)

The agreement came during Grossi's visit to the country this week, during which he met Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and toured the world's only Low Enriched Uranium Bank, which is a physical stock of 90 metric tons of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride suitable to make fuel for standard light water reactors. The bank exists for IAEA member states in case supply is disrupted due to exceptional circumstances.

Grossi thanked Kazakhstan for "generously and professionally" hosting the LEU Bank, which is located in Oskemen, about 950 kilometers east of Astana. The director general also discussed cooperation on the IAEA's Rays of Hope cancer care initiative and Zodiac programme to protect against zoonotic diseases and said that nuclear power would be central to the country's plans to achieve carbon neutrality.

"During the meeting with the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, various issues were discussed, including issues related to the development of the country's nuclear industry," Kazatomprom reported Grossi as saying.

Zhandos Nurmaganbetov, vice minister of energy, said: "Today's significant geopolitical events in the world show that Kazakhstan's initiatives on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, put forward 30 years ago, were timely and correct, and played a major role in ensuring global and regional security, making an invaluable contribution to strengthening peace and stability in the Eurasian space. Having one of the largest natural reserves of uranium in the world and taking the first place in its production, Kazakhstan supports the development of peaceful atomic energy ... and supports the international efforts to support the nuclear non-proliferation regime."

Kazakhstan has 12% of the world's uranium resources and is the world's largest producer. A Russian-designed BN-350 sodium-cooled fast reactor operated near Aktau in Kazakhstan for 26 years until 1999, generating electricity and desalinating water.

Kazakhstan currently has plans for a nuclear power plant, and in January was reported to be considering four foreign potential suppliers of nuclear technology - CNNC of China, KHNP of South Korea, Rosatom ofr Russia and EDF of France. It has also been looking into the options for small modular reactors.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News