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Marat Shaikhutdinov. The state and prospects of the Kazakh-US cooperation in the field of global nuclear security

Kazakhstan and the United States have been successfully cooperating in the field of global nuclear security over the past decades. Along the way, Astana and Washington have achieved impressive successes. There is every reason to believe that a close dialogue between our countries on nuclear security will continue to deepen.


Kazakhstan’s contribution to the global nuclear security: a view from across the ocean

As it is known, on September 21 this year, at the initiative of the United States, United Nations Security Council held Session on Nuclear Non-Proliferation. During the meeting, US Secretary of State R. Tillerson highly appreciated the role of Kazakhstan in the process of global disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

First, R. Tillerson stated, “The Republic of Kazakhstan is a particularly illustrative example of the wisdom of relinquishing nuclear weapons. In partnership with the United States Kazakhstan opted to remove from its territory former Soviet weapons and related nuclear technologies, and joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-weapons state. This courageous decision by the leaders of Kazakhstan greatly reduced the prospect of nuclear weapons, components of nuclear weapons, or nuclear materials and dual-use technologies from falling into the wrong hands” [1].

Second, R. Tillerson noted, “Kazakhstan’s actions represented a key step in that country becoming part of the community of nations. As a result of letting go of nuclear weapons, the world does not look on Kazakhstan as a potential nuclear aggressor or a rogue state. It did not make enemies of its nuclear neighbors, Russia or China” [2].

Third, R. Tillerson stated, “In my previous career, I met President Nazarbayev on many occasions and had the opportunity to ask him about this decision. He is more at peace with his choice than ever. He once remarked to me, “It was the best thing I ever did for our young country” [3].

Fourth, R. Tillerson highly appreciated the foreign policy of Kazakhstan, “Today Kazakhstan has overwhelmingly been at peace with its neighbors, and its trade relations are robust. This year, it hosted World Expo 2017, an event in Astana, which showcased the sources of future energy and investment opportunities in Kazakhstan to attendees from around the world. This is a modern nation making a substantial contribution to regional and international peace and prosperity. Kazakhstan has only benefitted from its early decision” [4].


Bank of nuclear fuel in Kazakhstan and its international significance

On August 29 this year, on the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, N.A. Nazarbayev, opened the building of the Bank of Low Enriched Uranium (BLEU) in Ust-Kamenogorsk via the teleconference and handed over the symbolic keys of the bank to IAEA Director General Y. Amano.

Opening the BLEU, N.A.Nazarbayev noted the special significance of today’s event for both Kazakhstan and the entire world community. The President stressed that during the years of independence the country has made a rapid progress – from the holder of the world’s fourth nuclear arsenal to the world leader in global non-proliferation: “On this day, August 29, 1991, my Decree closed the world’s largest Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. And today throughout the world, August 29 is celebrated as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. The second problem was evidence of Kazakhstan’s powerful nuclear arsenal. It is the efforts of Kazakhstan that have shown the way to other countries that have faced the problem of nuclear arsenals” [5].

The Head of State noted that having provided the IAEA with the opportunity to place BLEU, Kazakhstan contributed to strengthening the non-proliferation regime and creating a unique mechanism for the safe supply of nuclear fuel: “And to stress the LEU Bank will be in effect under the IAEA full control, and will be in its official legal possession. Therefore, I express my gratitude to the leadership of the IAEA and the donors of the Bank for their great contribution to this important project” [6].

Indeed, a certain amount of low-enriched uranium will be stored in the BLEU to produce fuel assemblies of nuclear power plants (NPPs). BLEU will not be a source of permanent supplies or a kind of “store”. Uranium reserve will become an untapped reserve, which will be in demand only in case of a crisis situation on the world uranium market. At the same time, all costs for the acquisition, delivery, maintenance, import and export of low-enriched uranium will be borne by the IAEA.

On the same day, the Head of State met with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. During the meeting, Nursultan Nazarbayev noted the comprehensive and strengthening character of our country’s cooperation with the IAEA and stressed that Kazakhstan acts as the leader of the global anti-nuclear movement: “We contribute to the peaceful use of atomic energy as a state possessing large volumes of uranium-containing raw materials” [7].


New initiatives of President N.Nazarbayev in the sphere of global nuclear security

During the inauguration ceremony of the IAEA Bank of Low Enriched Uranium building, the Head of State made a number of crucial statements regarding global nuclear security and further development of the nuclear industry in Kazakhstan.

First, N.A.Nazarbayev welcomed the participants of the 62nd session of the Pugwash movement of scientists on global issues and congratulated them on the 60th anniversary of the Movement.

Second, the Head of State dwelled on the problem of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the harmful consequences of its use for humanity: “Nuclear weapons are the execution of all humanity. Nine states of the world contain 16,000 nuclear weapons. But even half of a percent of nuclear arsenals will break the climate and cause a global famine. That means self-destruction” [8].

Third, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan noted the low level of trust between the major nuclear powers, the consequence of which was the lack of unity in the world community on the issue of global nuclear security: “Kazakhstan has made its choice. We are consistent supporters of nuclear disarmament and global nuclear security. At the same time, we believe that nuclear safety can only be universal and non-discriminatory. The G-GLOBAL initiative, which unites about 190 countries, is aimed at that” [9].

Fourth, Nursultan Nazarbayev expressed concern over the tightening of the sanctions confrontation between the US and Russia: “The stability and nuclear security of the 21st century depends primarily on the official nuclear powers. Relations between them are of key and decisive importance for mankind. As for the situation around the DPRK, we strongly support the UN Security Council Resolution 2371” [10].

Fifth, the President said: “We have repeatedly pointed out that the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons does not justify the hopes placed on it. In particular, the countries of the “nuclear club” do not disclose information on nuclear programs on a voluntary basis. Other countries provide the IAEA with exhaustive information. It is necessary to reduce the imbalance in the approaches between the “nuclear five” and the rest of the world” [11].

Sixth, the Head of State reminded that in 2020 the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the NPT becoming the law and called for making efforts to make the Treaty on the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons come into force by that time.

Seventh, N.A.Nazarbayev proposed to legalize the status of all de-facto nuclear states and convene a summit of the countries possessing nuclear weapons.

Eighth, the Head of State pointed to some countries that possess nuclear technologies that have not yet signed or ratified the CTBT and appealed to their leaders to join the Treaty without delay: “The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones is one of the most effective means in the fight against its proliferation. In March 2009, the Treaty on Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Establishment in Central Asia entered into force. I propose to unite the efforts of all states that are part of the nuclear-free zones” [12].

Ninth, Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed consolidating all global initiatives on the issues of the anti-nuclear movement and expressed Kazakhstan’s readiness to initiate the process of updating the Global Nuclear Security Summit and hold its meeting in Astana: “At the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, I put forward the initiative to achieve – by the UN 100th anniversary – a world without nuclear weapons. All the points I have voiced are aimed at ensuring that the UN’s 100th anniversary is met by the world without nuclear weapons. By our example, we urge all countries that are striving for nuclear weapons to stand out of that dangerous path” [13].

Tenth, President N.Nazarbayev drew attention to the urgency of the development of nuclear energy and spoke about the prospects for its further modernization: “We are the largest producer of uranium and are ready to play an important role in the world energy. Kazakhstan is also in the mainstream of a global “green” trend. That is why Astana hosts the international exhibition of EXPO, dedicated to the energy of the future” [14].

In general, as evidenced by recent events, Independent Kazakhstan retains its leadership on issues of global nuclear security. New initiatives by President Nursultan Nazarbayev convincingly demonstrate that Kazakhstan remains a supporter of a peaceful atom and practical realization of the idea of ​​a universal nuclear-free world. In this context, the further Kazakh-American dialogue on the issues of global nuclear security becomes particularly important.


[1] Remarks at the United Nations Security Council Session on Nuclear Non-Proliferation //https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2017/09/274362.htm

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Participation in the opening ceremony of the IAEA Bank of Low Enriched Uranium building //http://www.akorda.kz/en/events/astana_kazakhstan/participation_in_events/participation-in-the-opening-ceremony-of-the-iaea-bank-of-low-enriched-uranium-building

[6] Ibid.

[7] Meeting with Yukiya Amano, IAEA Director General //http://www.akorda.kz/en/events/astana_kazakhstan/participation_in_events/meeting-with-yukiya-amano-iaea-director-general

[8] Participation in the opening ceremony of the IAEA Bank of Low Enriched Uranium building //http://www.akorda.kz/en/events/astana_kazakhstan/participation_in_events/participation-in-the-opening-ceremony-of-the-iaea-bank-of-low-enriched-uranium-building

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

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