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Kazakhstan, U.S. Deepen Nuclear Security Ties

The governments of Kazakhstan and the United States on Wednesday formalized an agreement to deepen their atomic security and safeguards collaboration, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration announced (see GSN, Oct. 12).

The new "implementing arrangement" between the semiautonomous Energy Department agency and the Kazakh Industry and New Technology Ministry establishes the basis for deepening technical collaboration in safely and securely holding atomic materials, the handling of nuclear waste, nuclear forensics and data operations. The agreement also allows for joint dissemination of atomic best practices to third-party nations.

"The implementing arrangement is an important next step in our cooperation with Kazakhstan that advances our joint interest in ensuring the highest possible standards for nuclear material safeguards and security," Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said in provided comments. "It reflects our nations' shared commitment to supporting the safe and secure use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

The NNSA Next Generation Safeguards Initiative will oversee the new areas of activity with Kazakhstan. The initiative is focused on fostering ideas, technical know-how and equipment that can be used to improve and maintain global efforts to protect nuclear material (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration release I, Nov. 30).

Separately, FBI and NNSA officials on Thursday concluded an antiterrorism drill that focused on responding to a simulated terrorist action involving radioactive substances, the nuclear agency announced.

The "Cavalier Thunder" drill was the most recent in a number of NNSA exercises that provide national, state and local officials as well as emergency responders with key training in assessing dangers, determining priorities, responding to catastrophes and dealing with the aftermath of a radiological terrorist strike.

The programs are located at sites around the country that store "high-activity" radioactive or nuclear substances, according to an NNSA press release. Scenarios include extremist groups entering a scientific facility in an attempt to capture radioactive material. This week's tabletop exercise at the University of Virginia was the first to feature Canadian observers.

"These exercises are critical to improving cooperation among federal, state and local officials and we welcome the opportunity to work with organizations like the University of Virginia to ensure effective planning, communication and response coordination," NNSA Deputy Undersecretary Steven Aoki said in a released statement (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration release II, Dec. 1).


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