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The Republic of Kazakhstan and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have agreed to strengthen collaboration in the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, following a visit by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to Astana.

Grossi met with Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and senior leaders, and visited the world's only Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank in Oskemen, which is owned and controlled by IAEA. The LEU Bank is a physical reserve of LEU for eligible IAEA member states in case the supply of LEU to a NPP is disrupted due to exceptional circumstances that disable the securing of the fuel from the commercial market or any other supply arrangement.

Grossi thanked President Tokayev for the productive bilateral relationship between the Agency and Kazakhstan, which became a member of the IAEA in 1994. He also thanked the President for his support towards the IAEA’s efforts to ensure safety and security of Ukraine’s NPPs, including the Zaporizhia NPP.

Grossi and Minister of Energy Almasadam Satkaliyev signed Kazakhstan’s Country Programme Framework 2023-2028. This ensures closer interaction between the Agency and Kazakhstan in a number of areas. Country Programme Frameworks are mutually agreed priority development needs and interests between the IAEA and individual countries, to be supported through technical cooperation activities. The new programme, for the next five years, defines four priority areas: nuclear power infrastructure, nuclear and radiation safety, food security, and nuclear medicine. The transfer of nuclear technology and technical cooperation resources is expected to support Kazakhstan’s national development goals. The IAEA will also help decommission the first industrial reactor facility in the Mangystau Region.

Grossi also met with Kazakhstan’s Minister of Health, Azhar Giniyat, to discuss potential cooperation on two recent IAEA initiatives related to increasing access to cancer care – Rays of Hope – and protection against zoonotic diseases – ZODIAC. “The bilateral relationship between the IAEA and Kazakhstan is rich and diverse,” Grossi said, highlighting the IAEA’s support in the development of nuclear medicine and pandemic relief efforts. He added that nuclear power would be central to Kazakhstan’s plans to achieve carbon neutrality.

Earlier in April, Kazakhstan received an IAEA mission to review progress of the country’s nuclear infrastructure development, as the Energy Ministry is considering the reintroduction of nuclear power to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, diversify the energy mix and reduce CO2 emissions. Kazakhstan currently operates research reactors as well as several other nuclear installations related to the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium mining. It has the second largest uranium reserves in the world with 14% of the total.

First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kairat Umarov welcomed the results of the IAEA infrastructure review, which concluded that Kazakhstan had fully implemented earlier recommendations on nuclear energy infrastructure. Umarov congratulated Grossi on his re-election as IAEA Director General in March, noting that Kazakhstan attaches great importance to the development of comprehensive cooperation with the Agency in the field of peaceful use of atomic energy.

He noted that one of the main priority areas of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the IAEA is the technical cooperation programme. Kazakhstan is currently implementing 63 projects (11 national, 46 regional and six interregional) on the introduction of modern nuclear technologies in medicine (cancer control) and agriculture (increase in productivity, water purification, food security), as well as the restoration of the territory of the former Semipalatinsk nuclear weapons test site to economic use.

During a trip to Oskemen, around 950km east of Astana, Grossi visited the LEU Bank, which became operational in 2019. He thanked Kazakhstan for “generously and professionally” hosting the Bank at its Ulba Metallurgical Plant. The LEU Bank holds a physical stock of 90 tonnes of uranium hexafluoride (UF6), which is suitable to make fuel for a typical light water reactor. The UF6 is sufficient to produce enough nuclear fuel to power a large city for three years.

Image: IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi met with Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev during his visit to Astana (courtesy of Akorda)

Date: Wednesday, 26 April 2023
Original article: neimagazine.com/news/newsiaea-and-kazakhstan-agree-to-strengthen-nuclear-cooperation-10786440