NNSA welcomes opening of Kazakhstan storage facility

September 26, 2023, 8:49AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration recently marked the completion of a new long-term radioactive waste storage facility in Kazakhstan.

The facility, at Kazakhstan’s Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP), has been operational since 2022 and has an expected lifespan of 50 years. According to the NNSA, the facility conforms with all Kazakhstan and International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines and replaces a much older facility located at an INP property in Turaz.

Grand opening: A ceremony to celebrate the facility’s opening was attended by, among others, Stephan Langley, U.S. acting consulate general; Constance McAninch, director of the DOE office at the U.S. Embassy in the Republic of Kazakhstan; Brian Rabaey, of the NNSA’s Office of Radiological Security (ORS); Samuel Fontela, representative of the U.S. Consulate in Almaty; and Alan Hamson, Canadian ambassador to Kazakhstan.

Following the ceremony, the delegation toured the INP grounds, including the new storage facility, a nuclear reactor used to make pharmaceuticals, and future sites that will continue to support radiological security.

History: The storage facility began with a feasibility study funded by the ORS in 2019. Construction was funded by Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program and was completed by the INP within the framework of the Kazakh-American Special Commission on Energy Partnership Program.

Notes: About 3,500 disused radioactive sources have been transported to the new facility from older, less-secure storage. In the future, the new facility will begin accepting radioactive sources from other Kazakh organizations, according to the NNSA.

Quotes: “The opening of this repository will make a significant contribution to strengthening radiation safety both in Kazakhstan and around the world,” said Langley at the opening ceremony.

Sayabek Sakhiev, director general of the INP, added, “This storage facility for spent sources of ionizing radiation is a big step toward the peaceful use of the atom in the Republic of Kazakhstan.”

The goal: The ORS’s mission is to enhance global security by preventing radioactive materials from use in acts of terrorism, according to the NNSA. To achieve the mission, the NNSA noted that the ORS has developed a security approach that protects radioactive sources in medical, research, and commercial settings; removes and disposes of disused radioactive sources; and reduces the global reliance on radioactive sources through the promotion of nonradioisotopic alternative technologies.

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