Overview Last updated: August, 2012
Kazakhstan inherited nuclear-tipped missiles, a nuclear weapon test site, and biological and chemical weapon production facilities when the Soviet Union collapsed. In its first decade of independence, Kazakhstan dismantled and destroyed Soviet weapons systems and facilities left on its territory, and signed major international nonproliferation treaties.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, Kazakhstan inherited 1,410 nuclear warheads and the Semipalatinsk nuclear weapon test site. By April 1995 Kazakhstan had repatriated its nuclear warhead inventory back to Russia, destroying the nuclear testing infrastructure at Semipalatinsk by July 2000. However, weapons-grade nuclear material remains in Kazakhstan, including three metric tons of plutonium at a shutdown reactor in western Kazakhstan and small amounts of highly enriched uranium (HEU) at two nuclear research institutes. Approximately 600 kilograms of weapons-grade HEU was removed to the United States from the Ulba Metallurgy Plant in 1994 under a joint U.S.-Kazakhstani operation known as Project Sapphire. Kazakhstan is a party to START-I, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It signed an Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency in February 2004 and is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The foreign ministers of the five Central Asian States — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — signed a treaty establishing a Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (CANWFZ) on 8 September 2006. On 19 February 2007, Kazakhstani President Nazarbayev signed a law approving the nation's Additional Protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Kazakhstan is home to a significant number of anti-plague facilities, that were part of the Soviet biological warfare (BW) effort. In June 2007, Kazakhstan acceded to the Biological Toxin and Weapons Convention (BWC). Kazakh President Nazarbayev has declared Kazakhstan's commitment to biological weapons nonproliferation. However, the state is not yet a member of the Australia Group.
In 1993, Kazakhstan created a civilian body, the National Center for Biotechnology, to oversee the administration of most of the former BW facilities in Kazakhstan. These facilities include the following: Biomedpreparat, a large-scale biological production facility located in Stepnogorsk; the Scientific Research Agricultural Institute (SRAI) at Otar, which specializes in crop and livestock diseases; and Biokombinat, a small mobilization production facility located in Almaty, which now produces vaccines. The Kazakh Scientific Center for Quarantine and Zoonotic Infections (KSCQZI) (formerly known as the Central Asian Anti-Plague Research Institute) was also involved in the Soviet defensive BW system and is now under the jurisdiction of the Kazakh Ministry of Health. Both KSCQZI and SRAI house extensive collections of virulent strains of human, animal, and plant pathogens. Under the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, Biomedpreparat has been dismantled and safety and security have been upgraded at KSCQZI and SRAI. In December 2004, the United States and Kazakhstan signed an amendment to a bilateral agreement that will expand cooperation against the threat of bioterrorism through the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. The goal of U.S.-Kazakhstan cooperation in this area is to counter the threat of bioterrorism and prevent proliferation of biological weapons technology, pathogens, and expertise at their source.
Kazakhstan inherited one known chemical weapons production plant in the city of Pavlodar. This plant probably was designed to replace aging plants in Volgograd and Novocheboksarsk (Russia) for the production of the binary agent "novichok." The plant's construction was halted in 1987, after the Soviet Union became involved in CWC-related negotiations, so it never produced any chemical warfare agents. Kazakhstan joined the CWC in March 2000. However, Kazakhstan submitted a nil declaration, leaving out the Pavlodar facility.
Kazakhstan inherited 104 SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) from the Soviet missile complex. All ICBMs were transferred to Russia for dismantlement by September 1996 and missile silos and silo structures were destroyed under the U.S. Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program by September 1999. Gidromash, an Almaty-based Soviet-era producer of submarine-launched missiles, was converted to a civilian commercial enterprise under CTR's Industrial Partnerships Program.
This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright © 2011 by MIIS.
Get the Facts on Kazakhstan
- Transferred 1,410 nuclear warheads to Russia following the Soviet collapse
- Over 10,000 kg of HEU and 3,000 kg of Pu leftover from the Soviet era remain on Kazakh territory
- Once home to the world's largest anthrax production facility at Stepnogorsk
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