Kazakhstan and the UN nuclear watchdog signed a deal Thursday to create the first internationally-controlled uranium bank aimed at guaranteeing supplies for power plants and curbing nuclear proliferation.
The bank, which will be administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency and is expected to open in 2017, will contain low-enriched uranium (LEU).
Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said the bank, to be based in the north of the former Soviet state, would provide IAEA member states with "safe access to fuel for their nuclear power plants".
The deal for the bank, which costs $150 million, was signed during a visit by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano.
The IAEA has said it will contain up to 90 tonnes of low enriched uranium suitable to make fuel for a typical light water reactor.
"The LEU can be used to make enough nuclear fuel to power a large city for three years," it said in a statement on its website.
The White House lauded the plan.
"Through this initiative, member states of the IAEA will be able to access a ready reserve of nuclear material for fueling peaceful power reactors should they have difficulties securing such material on the international market," it said in a statement Wednesday.
It also recognised Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's "important leadership on nonproliferation spanning more than two decades."
Kazakhstan portrays itself as a key player in nuclear diplomacy, having given up its own nuclear weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Central Asian country also hosted an unsuccessful round of talks on Iran's nuclear programme in 2013.