In this Special Report, Richard Weitz looks at the role of Kazakhstan in pursuing and promoting nuclear security.
Since 1991, the Republic of Kazakhstan has been a leading force for eliminating nuclear weapons while supporting the safe, secure, and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
In line with this policy, President Nursultan Nazarbayev and other Kazakhstan officials have destroyed or removed all the nuclear weapons that they inherited from the Soviet Union.
They have also joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state.
The have worked to keep Iran and North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons.
They have promoted a Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (CANWFZ), and are now leading a global movement against nuclear weapons testing while offering to host the world’s first “nuclear fuel bank” in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Meanwhile, though Kazakhstan closed its only nuclear power reactor a few years ago after decades of service, the government and nuclear industry has decided to take advantage of Kazakhstan’s natural and technological resources to develop civilian nuclear power as an additional energy source, for both itself and other countries.
Through its contributions to the March 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague and other means, Kazakhstan has strived to make civilian nuclear power production more safe and secure.
Several factors explain why Kazakhstan’s government has made nuclear nonproliferation and security a major foreign-policy objective.
First, Kazakhstan suffered from the Soviets’ use of Kazakhstan’s territory to conduct hundreds of nuclear weapons tests, leaving horrific environmental and human damage. More than one million unprotected people were exposed to radioactive fallout, while some parts of Kazakhstan remain seriously contaminated to this day.
Second, Kazakhstan faces a genuine threat from possible terrorist or criminal efforts to acquire the nuclear material and technologies that are located on or near its territory.
Finally, foreign governments regularly praise Kazakhstan’s commitment to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament achievements, even those foreign government’s critical of the country’s other policies.