The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Kazakhstan have signed an agreement to create the world's first internationally-controlled bank of low-enriched uranium in the ex-Soviet nation to ensure fuel supplies for power stations and prevent nuclear proliferation.
The agreement on establishing the bank was signed by Yukiya Amano, director general of the UN nuclear watchdog, and Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov on August 27 in the Kazakh capital, Astana.
The White House lauded the plan and recognized Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's "important leadership on nonproliferation spanning more than two decades."
The storage facility, set to become fully operational in 2017, is intended to provide IAEA member states with a steady and predictable supply of fuel even if other routes are disrupted.
Backers also argue it will dissuade countries from building enrichment facilities that might be misused to purify uranium to weapons-grade levels - an issue that bedeviled relations between Iran and the West for more than a decade.
Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS