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U.S. - Kazakhstan Cooperation on Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation

October 12, 2011

The United States of America and the
Republic of Kazakhstan have cooperated on a broad range of nuclear security and
nonproliferation topics for nearly two decades.  The partnership was
established under the umbrella of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement
signed in December 1993.  Today, the Departments of Energy, Defense, and
State work closely with the Government of Kazakhstan to support President
Obama’s initiatives to secure vulnerable nuclear material and strengthen the
global nuclear nonproliferation regime.  

 At the end of the Cold War,
Kazakhstan inherited a vast nuclear weapons infrastructure, which included
1,410 nuclear warheads.  Working in close cooperation with the United
States, as well as Russia, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and
many other international partners, Kazakhstan eliminated or removed from its
territory all 1,410 nuclear warheads, dismantled the infrastructure of the
Semipalatinsk test site, and destroyed or removed hundreds of missiles,
bombers, and tactical nuclear warheads.   

Kazakhstan remains a vital and
strategic partner in some of the most important nuclear security and
nonproliferation efforts worldwide.  The United States and Kazakhstan are
cooperating to make the world safer from the threat of nuclear terrorism by
converting and removing nuclear materials that may be attractive to terrorists,
securing nuclear material at production and storage facilities, combating the
trafficking of illicit nuclear materials, and protecting radiological materials
that could be used in radiological dispersal devices to cause widespread
disruption.  In addition, both countries are strongly committed to
preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and are working together to
continue reducing the proliferation threats associated nuclear materials,
technologies, and expertise. 

Securing Nuclear and Radiological Material

  •  Converting
    and Removing Nuclear Material
    :  Minimizing the
    amount of highly enriched uranium (HEU) available internationally reduces
    the danger of attractive nuclear material falling into the wrong
    hands.  The United States and
    Kazakhstan cooperate to convert HEU into low-enriched uranium, which
    cannot be used to make a nuclear weapon.
  • Recently the two sides removed and permanently disposed
    of 33 kilograms (approximately 72 pounds) of HEU fresh fuel from the
    Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP) in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  This
    recent effort builds on previous collaboration with INP, who partnered
    with the United States in 2009 to remove 74 kilograms of HEU spent fuel
    for final disposition in Russia. 
  •  Securing
    Nuclear and Radiological Material at its Source:
    the security of nuclear facilities is an important part of ensuring that
    nuclear material does not fall into the wrong hands, which is why the
    United States has cooperated with the Government of the Republic of
    Kazakhstan to upgrade nuclear security at a number of sites in the country
    since the late 1990s.
  • For example, the United States has partnered with
    Kazakhstan and other international partners to decommission the BN-350
    fast breeder reactor and secure the equivalent of 775 nuclear
    weapons-worth of plutonium and HEU that was contained in the reactor’s
    spent fuel.  Operations to transport
    and store this material to a secure nuclear complex in eastern Kazakhstan
    were finished in November 2010. 
  • In addition, since 2004, the United States and Kazakhstan have cooperated to upgrade physical protection at
    19 facilities housing high-active radioactive sources in Kazakhstan to
    improve security around the radiological materials.
  •  Combating
    Illicit Trafficking in Nuclear Materials
    : The United States and Kazakhstan have cooperated
    since 2006 to build capacities to deter, detect, and interdict illicit,
    black-market trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials across
    international borders.  To date, we
    have worked together to complete the installation of radiation detection
    systems at 19 ports, land border crossings, airports, and other
    international points of exit and entry. 
  •  Combating
    Nuclear Terrorism
    :  Since 2006, Kazakhstan has partnered
    with the United States in the multilateral Global Initiative to Combat
    Nuclear Terrorism, aimed at strengthening the global capacity to prevent,
    detect and respond to nuclear terrorism. 
    Through seminars and field exercises, Kazakhstan has actively
    sought to enhance capabilities related to control, accounting and physical
    security of nuclear material, and to improve response mechanisms in the
    event of a terrorist attack on a nuclear facility.

 Strengthening the Nonproliferation Regime

  •  Strengthening
    International Inspection Capabilities
    :  The IAEA plays
    a vital role in providing assurances that states with nuclear facilities
    are complying with international legal obligations not to develop nuclear
    weapons. This week, the United States and Kazakhstan will sign a new
    agreement to cooperate on research and development to strengthen the
    verification capabilities of the IAEA. 
    The new agreement will allow both sides to develop new technical
    approaches for verification challenges. 
  •  Building
    Capacities to Interdict Illicit Trafficking in Nuclear Technologies
    United States and Kazakhstan also have cooperated since 1999 to strengthen
    export control systems to prevent illicit acquisition of technologies and
    equipment for nuclear weapons programs, including working with local customs
    and border officials to recognize and interdict WMD-sensitive goods.
  •  Engaging
    Scientists with WMD-Relevant Expertise:
      For more than
    fifteen years, the United States and other partners have sponsored
    projects in Kazakhstan through the International Science and Technology
    Center (ISTC) to engage former weapons scientists and other technical
    personnel with WMD-relevant expertise to prevent the spread of expertise
    in nuclear weapons development and production.