The ICAS Lectures


Kazakhstan's Nuclear Disarmament Experience:
A Global Model for Safer World

Erian A. Idrissov

ICAS Fall Symposium

Humanity Peace and Security
The Korean Peninsula Issues
October 15, 2008 , 1:30 - 4:30 PM
United States House of Representatives Rayburn Office Building Room B 318
Capitol Hill, Washington DC

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422


Biographic Sketch & Links: Erian A. Idrissov

Kazakhstan's Nuclear Disarmament Experience:
A Global Model for Safer World

His Excellency Erian A. Idrissov
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of
the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United States of America

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for the invitation and given opportunity to deliver a speech about Kazakhstan's efforts in nuclear disarmament and its contribution to nonproliferation regime. Being a part of diplomatic service I was involved in the nuclear disarmament process in our country, and in my speech I will focus on why and how Kazakhstan became free from nuclear weapons and what benefits we could gain.

Certainly, Kazakhstan's critical contribution to enhancing global security is well-known and widely recognized. But first I would like to recall the historical events related to nuclear activity which is the most tragic page in the history of Kazakhstan.

For more than 40 years since August 1949, the steppes of Kazakhstan were a test nuclear site. There were more than 450 nuclear and thermonuclear explosions carried out in the world's second largest nuclear test at Semipalatinsk. The total impact of nuclear explosions in Kazakhstan exceeds the power of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb by 45,000.

The people of Kazakhstan, having personally seen the destructive force of nuclear weapons, decisively voted against further testing of these lethal devices. In1991, the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, expressing the wish of our people, made a decision to shut down the Semipalatinsk test site. Despite seventeen years have been past, the people of Kazakhstan keep in their mind the horrible consequences of nuclear tests. To this day, not only the unwilling witnesses of those explosions, but their children and grandchildren continue to suffer.

As the next step at that time our President took crucial decision to renounce unilaterally the nuclear arsenal inherited from the former Soviet Union. Let me say a few words about Kazakhstan in the beginning of 90s. It was the fourth largest nuclear power in the world at a time of considerable economic and social instability. Our arsenal was larger than those of the United Kingdom, France, and China combined. Most of these warheads stood top missiles aimed at targets in the United States.

The President's decision was indeed a courageous step because at that time public opinion in Kazakhstan on this matter was divided, with one part wishing to retain nuclear weapons and the other seeking a nuclear free option. Although the Kazakhstan's press and public opinion were not fully supportive of his action, President Nazarbayev declared Kazakhstan a non-nuclear weapon country. On April 21, 1995 the process of removing nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan, which took more than a year, was completed. On May 30, 1995 the last nuclear explosive at the Semipalatinsk test site was destroyed. From that moment, Kazakhstan's soil has been freed from nuclear weapons.

I am very proud of this, certainly, right decision which facilitated development of Kazakhstan's economy and social security system to raise our citizen's wellbeing. Today, our country is a leader in economic and political reforms in the post Soviet area. Our rates of economic growth are considered among the highest in the world. Kazakhstan's strong economic growth in recent years, attracting $70 billion in foreign investments, and the improvement of living standards for our people are powerful and convincing arguments that Kazakhstan has gained, not lost, from renouncing nuclear weapons.

Our decision to be free of nuclear weapon nation defined the future strategy of Kazakhstan in the sphere of global security, and non-proliferation became a core element in its foreign and domestic political strategies. Kazakhstan has taken a number of specific steps proving our full determination to strengthen the non- proliferation regime and promote global denuclearization using all means possible.

Since becoming a legal successor state to the former USSR in connection with the Treaty between the USSR and the USA on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms and the Treaty between the USSR and the USA on Eliminating Medium and Short Range Missiles, Kazakhstan has been true to its obligations. Regular inspections of Kazakhstan's facilities under these treaties confirm our full and unwavering observance.

Now Kazakhstan is party to a number of multilateral agreements and non- proliferation regimes. Kazakhstan's voluntary renunciation of our nuclear legacy and firm adherence to the nonproliferation regime predetermined our accession to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In 2002 Kazakhstan was accepted into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and is now getting ready to join the Missile Technology Control Regime. Attaching great importance to the full implementation of the IAEA safeguards and to the strengthening of the Agency's verification mechanisms, Kazakhstan signed the Additional Protocol in 2004 and closely cooperates with the IAEA in this area. Currently all nuclear facilities in Kazakhstan are under full IAEA safeguards.

Another example of Kazakhstan's commitment to the nonproliferation regime was the shipment of 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to the United Stated under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards in 1994.

We strongly committed to strengthening nonproliferation and reducing risks of use of weapons of mass destructions. Kazakhstan and the United States have a common view on these tasks which are on the top of our bilateral agenda. The cornerstone of our cooperation in nonproliferation activity is the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR). As you know, this so-called Nunn-Lugar Program named after the two US senators is one of the largest international program to promote the nonproliferation regime. The Program joins efforts to reduce the military threat and is one of the key instruments of preventing this threat. It is primarily aimed at the reduction in current and future threats to global security.

Kazakhstan, in cooperation with the United States under the Nunn-Lugar program, has removed all nuclear weapons from its lands and eliminated the test site's infrastructure. It was launched under the 7-years Framework Agreement on Elimination of Silos for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, Elimination of Consequences of Emergency Situations and Prevention of Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons signed by our countries in December 1993. The Framework Agreement which was extended in 2000 had given opportunity to conclude almost dozen CTR implementing agreements on various fields. They aimed at ensuring the country meets its obligations under the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (commonly known as the START-1 Treaty), at the environmentally safe elimination of infrastructure of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, prevention of the proliferation of WMD, military cooperation and conversion of military technologies to civilian use, creation of an effective system of export controls, safe elimination of nuclear materials, expansion of scientific and technical cooperation, and prevention of proliferation of materials and technologies of dual use.

Of course, all of these projects require significant financial support and the development of unique engineering solutions. One of the most complex projects which we are currently implementing under the CTR is the safe disposition of BN- 350 reactor fuel and decommissioning of the BN-350 fast breeder reactor. In 2006 we have successfully completed project on secure transportation of fresh highly enriched uranium fuel from BN-350 reactor and its down blending at the Ulbinskiy plant in Kazakhstan. In other words, almost three tons of highly enriched uranium, enough to produce dozens nuclear bombs, were down blended and turned into low enriched uranium usable only in peaceful purposes.

In conclusion I would like to note once again that our status as nuclear weapons free country has strengthened nuclear disarmament, stability, peace in the world and global security.

We are confident that our renunciation of nuclear weapons has become and important factor of economic and political development and internal stability of Kazakhstan. All its activity allows considering Kazakhstan as a model nation which contributes significantly into the strengthening of both regional and global security.
Thank you.

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