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: Strengthening 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: The 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.