26 September 2023
On 25 September 2023, the National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan signed a Joint Statement on the margins of the 67th Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference.
The Statement addresses:
successful completion of work on converting the IVG.1M research reactor of National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan to low-enriched uranium fuel in May 2023, which was the result of many years of fruitful cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Kazakhstan on the minimization of highly enriched uranium (HEU) stockpile in Kazakhstan,
intentions of Parties to continue cooperation on the safe storage and ultimate down-blending of spent HEU fuel from the IVG.1M reactor and to support efforts on HEU minimization and strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime,
intention to complete downblending and immobilization of the irradiated HEU fuel from Kazakhstan’s Impulse Graphite Reactor (IGR) in 2027 using a unique technology developed by NNC RK specialists and develop a roadmap to identify an alternative solution to convert the IGR to LEU fuel, allowing for continued research activities while concurrently pursuing mutual nonproliferation goals.
The signing of such joint statements on the sidelines of the IAEA GC has been before particularly in 2019 and 2020, and it has become a good tradition within the context of bilateral meetings between the delegations of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the United States. Earlier, a Joint Statement between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the United States of America was signed at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on 31 March 2016, which addressed the successful completion of the conversion of the Kazakhstan’s WWR-K reactor and other progress and efforts of the Parties aimed to implement practical measures to strengthen the nuclear weapon nonproliferation regime and enhance nuclear security.
For reference. The National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan is implementing a major project for the conversion of two research reactors - IVG.1M and IGR.
The project is supported by the U.S. DOE and Argonne National Laboratory.
The key objective is to low enrichment of fuel from the IVG.1M and IGR reactors from 90% down to 19.75% in U-235 (Uranium-235).
In 2022, without significant interventions in the design, the replacement of the IVG.1M reactor core with low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel with a double increase in reactivity margin was completed. On 18 May 2023, the IVG.1M research reactor began operation after completing all conversion activities and issuing all approval documents. The reactor was brought to the specified power level, all reactor’s systems operated under normal conditions. This is another significant achievement of the Republic of Kazakhstan in strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Currently, the IVG.1M reactor is prepared to continue experiments and resume research work as part of budgetary and commercial programs in peaceful use of atomic energy,