October 1st, 2006 03:20 EST
United States, Kazakhstan Agree on Key Nonproliferation Project
Washington -- The United States and Kazakhstan have reached an agreement-in-principle on a key nuclear nonproliferation project, the U.S. Department of Energy has announced.
In a statement issued September 29, the department said that the agreement achieved by it and the Nuclear Threat Initiative with the government of Kazakhstan provides for the down-blending of highly enriched uranium (HEU) currently stored at Kazakhstan’s Institute of Nuclear Physics.
In addition, it calls for the conversion of Kazakhstan’s VVR-K research reactor to operate on low enriched uranium fuel instead of HEU, which can be used in nuclear weapons, the department said.
The statement calls the agreement “an important step forward in fulfilling Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s pledge late last year to rid his country of its HEU.”
“This agreement represents another example of the kind of productive cooperation the United States and Kazakhstan have shared in furthering nuclear nonproliferation,” the statement quotes U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman as saying. “Our cooperative efforts support the Bush administration’s Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, recently announced by Presidents Bush and Putin."
The project is to be administered through the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative will work with Kazakhstan to make arrangements for the down-blending of the HEU at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan and to initiate conversion of the VVR-K reactor. The agency will contribute at least $4 million to the threat reduction initiative.
NTI -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to reducing the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons -- played a key role in the agreement being reached by committing up to $1.3 million for a new reactor control and protection system to improve reactor safety and for a beryllium reflector to enhance reactor performance. An international board co-chaired by philanthropist Ted Turner and former Senator Sam Nunn governs the group.
Nunn, long a champion of nonproliferation initiatives, said Kazakhstan and the United States “are to be commended for the foresight and creativity needed to make this agreement a reality.”
“This project is an example of how governments, the private sector and international organizations can work together to find innovative and effective solutions to make the world safer,” he said. “Under President Nazarbayev’s leadership, Kazakhstan led the way in getting rid of all its nuclear weapons after the break-up of the Soviet Union and is once again showing the world a safer path by converting its weapons-usable highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium,” Nunn added.
The press release on the nonproliferation project can be found on the U.S. Department of Energy Web site.
For further information on nonproliferation issues see Arms Control and Non‑Proliferation.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)