Recent months have seen a wealth of nuclear developments related to Kazakhstan, bringing to the forefront a country often overlooked.
The EIA has announced that in 2014, Kazakhstan became the top supplier of uranium for the 100 operating U.S. nuclear power reactors. In sum, 23%, or 12 million pounds, of U.S.-consumed uranium was sourced from Kazakhstan, surpassing the next-highest supplier, Australia.
Following its establishment as the world’s leading uranium producer in 2009, the average price of Kazakh product has been lower than other major suppliers’ for the past two years, contributing to its appeal for the American market.
August also saw a significant development for Kazakhstan and its role in the international nuclear market. On August 27, 2015, the IAEA and Kazakhstan officially signed an agreement to establish a low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel bank in Oskemen, located in northeastern Kazakhstan.
The establishment of this LEU bank- expected to begin operation in 2017- is a boon not only for the Kazakh economy, but for the stability of the global nuclear economy. Operated by the IAEA, the LEU bank will be a physical reserve of up to 90 metric tons, and will serve as a supplier of last resort for member states, should extenuating circumstances necessitate.
After years of negotiation and debate, moving forward on this project is a promising accomplishment, contributing to the stability of the market and bringing attention to a country that has long been a significant player in the nuclear field. By “ensuring a stable and predictable contingency plan for countries whose supply of nuclear fuel is disrupted,” the LEU bank will serve as a reliable, international resource to promote global cooperation and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
To read more on the nuclear history and industry in Kazakhstan, see our country profile, published last year, here.