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Establishment of safeguards related Facilities at the ULBA Metallurgical Plant: Equipment Supplies

Establishment of safeguards related Facilities at the ULBA Metallurgical Plant: Equipment Supplies



The ULBA Low Enriched Uranium Conversion and Fuel Fabrication Plant (or ULBA Metallurgy Plant - UMP) is located at Ust-Kamenogorsk on the river Ulba in North Kazakhstan. The plant was one of the largest nuclear fuel manufacturers in the world and produced fuel pellets for Russian designed RBMK and VVER reactors as well as for the world market.

The plant converted uranium hexafluoride and uranium nitrate received from Russia into uranium dioxide and sintered the material into pellets to be sold back to Russia where they were used for the manufacture of fuel rods. UMP also sold some intermediate products (like UO2 powder) to Western companies. Production capacity was 2000 t/y of pellets. The units relevant for this project were:

  • a chemical processing unit, to convert UF6 to UO2 powder;
  • a metallurgical unit, for fabrication of pellets from the powder.

The design of the installations achieved good operational performance and criticality safety, but nuclear material accountancy within the production lines was not adequately incorporated.

After its independence in December 1991, Kazakhstan formally acceded to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1994 and the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA entered into force in 1995. Obligations to be fulfilled included the introduction of instrumentation for accurate Mass/Volume determinations and for necessary Containment/Surveillance devices. The measuring systems required to establish a material control had to be such that the Material Unaccounted For (MUF) would be in the range of the International Target Values (<0.1%).

This project was part of the TACIS Programme of 1997 for nuclear safety in Kazakhstan. The project was designed to support the Kazakh beneficiary, UMP, in order to fulfil the safeguards requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The project aimed at improving the nuclear material accountancy and control (NMAC) systems at the plant. The project comprised a "service" part (see contract 26277) and a related equipment supply part covered by the present contract.


This contract was for the procurement of equipment in support of the improvement of NMAC systems at the ULBA Metallurgy Plant. More specifically, the equipment to be supplied comprised hardware and software to improve the measuring accuracy of the level and density of uranium nitrate solution in tanks. The ULBA plant has a large number of tanks for the storage of uranium nitrate. The determination of the U235 content in these tanks is based on the determination of volume, density and the isotopic composition of the uranium containing liquid. A total of 231 tanks had to be equipped with level and density measuring capabilities.

There are a number of measurement techniques applied for determining level and volume of liquid in tanks. In the nuclear field the classical technique utilises the pneumercator or diptube technique. Very simply, this involves bubbling air (in the range of 5 - 30 litres/hour) through three tubes inserted into the tank. The lower probe is located towards the bottom of the tank for level measurement, the upper probe for density measurement and the top probe, so called reference probe, is inserted in the vapour space above the liquid. The pressure in these probes is measured using pressure transducers located some distance away from the tank and connected to the pneumatic lines. The location of the instrumentation is usually in a technical gallery giving access for maintenance and periodical checks. As liquid enters the tank the lower and upper probes become covered, exerting a pressure in the lines. This resultant pressure is measured by the transducers inserted in the lines. The tank has to be calibrated in order to obtain a relationship between the measured pressure and the height of the liquid in the tank. The measured pressure is a function of both the height and density of liquid in the tank. By measuring the differential pressure between the lower and upper probe the density of the solution can be obtained provided the separation distance between these two probes is known. The technique is ideal for nuclear work since there are no moving parts and the instrumentation can be located long distances from the tank.

The scope of the supply comprised the manufacture, certification, delivery, installation and testing of the hardware and associated application software for:

  • Fixed Measurement Stations
  • Portable Measurement Stations
  • Unattended Volume Measurement Stations
  • calibration equipment
  • informatic hardware and software for both administration and operation of the instruments
  • gas piston gauge for calibration of pressure transducers

The scope also included training in the use of the equipment and after-sales services.

All tanks had to be equipped with three dip-tubes and a temperature gauge. The dip-tubes measure the Level, Density and Reference Pressures in these lines. Each area is served by a mobile calibration station and each dip-tube is connected to a Level Measurement Unit (LMU); this level measurement device is subsequently connected to a computer. The Level Measurement device consists of three Digital Pressure Modules and one thermometer to measure the temperature of the solution.

Due to the large number of tanks to be measured and also due to the large area to be covered, two types of measurement device have to be considered:

  • a fixed measurement system for the tanks that are the most important for the accountancy, and
  • a portable measurement system for tanks to be monitored and calibrated which are not in well determined areas or tanks with a special shape or dimension.

The Fixed Measurement System (FMS) or Multi Tank Scanning System covers a specific area and allows measuring up to 15 tanks with one measuring unit using multiplexing. The fixed measurement units support:

  • gravimetric calibration of a tank,
  • monitoring of the contents up to 15 tanks
  • density measurements
  • temperature measurements

The Unattended Volume Measurement Station allows independent inspectors of the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Committee (KAEC) to verify the operator calibration and perform an unattended monitoring of up to six tanks for a period of time. The UVMS is self contained and can be locked to enhance security when operating remotely and unattended. The UVMS unit is capable of monitoring the pressure values and registering the data for a minimum of 1 month uninterrupted operation.

Facilities to ensure calibration of all measurements performed by the system are provided at each tank to be measured.


The Call for Tender was launched in November 2002 and tenders were evaluated in January 2003. The contract was signed with Doerler Mesures Co on 22 February 2004. The equipment was delivered at the end of August 2005, was installed at the plant and the Provisional Acceptance Certificate was issued on 17 November 2005. The Final Acceptance Certificate was issued on 24 October 2006.

General Information

Establishment of safeguards related Facilities at the ULBA Metallurgical Plant: Equipment Supplies
€ 938.128,00
Budget year: 
Types of activities: 
Equipment Supply
WDS - Waste, Decommissioning and Safeguards
Duration (months): 
Contracting authority: 
Special Fund (EC)
Doerler Mesures
Old reference: 
ITALTREND 0332 (contract PA)
Project reference: 
Decision number: 
multi annual
Method of procurement: 
Special Fund (Procurement Agent)
Procurement Agent contract: 
Procurement Agent reference: 
WO 2/97s NSP-018-KAZ-002/97
Procurement Agent provisional acceptance: 
Procurement Agent Final acceptance: 
Signature date: 
Effective contract date: 
Contract end date: 
Closure date: