The UN nuclear watchdog has opened what is said to be the world’s first uranium bank in Kazakhstan.
The $150 million (£116.5m) facility at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) in the eastern city of Ust-Kamenoforsk is designed to reduce nuclear proliferation risks.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which owns and manages the new Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank, says dozens of nations are interested in pursuing nuclear energy.
It believes as the same enrichment technology that produces fuel for a nuclear reactor can also produce the material for a nuclear bomb, the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons would grow significantly if every country pursued its own enrichment capabilities.
The facility will store up to 90 metric tons of the fuel, which will be accessible to Member States of the IAEA that are unable to produce it elsewhere.
IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said: “The LEU Bank will act as a mechanism of last resort for supply of LEU to Member States which experience a supply disruption due to exceptional circumstances and which are unable to secure LEU from the commercial market or by any other means.”
The LEU Bank is fully funded by voluntary contributions from IAEA Member States and other donors.