The storage is planned to be developed at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant, which been storing nuclear material, including LEU for more than 60 years, in Oskemen in north-eastern Kazakhstan.

The storage is designed to host up to 90 metric tons of LEU, which is basic ingredient of nuclear fuel to ensure steady supply of the fuel for IAEA member states in the event of open market disruptions or other existing supply arrangements for LEU.

The stored LEU is enough to operate a 1,000MWe light-water reactor which can power a large city for three years.

IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said: "As the world’s largest uranium producer, with expertise in peaceful nuclear technology, Kazakhstan is well suited to hosting the IAEA LEU Bank."

The project secured $150m of voluntary contributions from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the US, the EU, the UAE, Kuwait, Norway and Kazakhstan.

Amano said: "Their contributions will make it possible to establish the IAEA LEU Bank and will cover its costs for the first ten years of operation."

Image: Officials of IAEA and Kazakhstan sign agreement to set up the IAEA low enriched uranium (LEU) bank in Kazakhstan. Photo: courtesy of Government of Kazakhstan / International Atomic Energy Agency.