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Three Nations Finish Effort to Protect Kazakh Nuclear Test Site
Kazakhstan on Monday announced the completion of a multilateral initiative to safeguard sensitive atomic materials at a Soviet-era nuclear test site on its territory, Interfax reported.
"The American-Kazakh-Russian project [at the Semipalatinsk Test Site] will be closed in a ceremony in Kurchatov on Oct. 17 and 18. We will mark the successful fulfillment of the trilateral project," Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Altai Abibullayev told reporters.
Abibullayev said an effort to identify and eliminate dangerous residual substances at the site came after it was decommissioned and atomic armaments were transferred out of the area.
"Between 1995 and 2000, the nuclear testing infrastructure was being removed from the testing ground by Russia and the United States. In 2000, the project switched to a trilateral format," the official stated.
The area of more than 7,140 square miles hosted roughly 500 nuclear-bomb trials over four decades, according to Interfax.
A U.S. State Department official noted the protection effort had support from the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiative, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency "and many other international partners."
"The United States views Kazakhstan as a partner and leader in the area of nonproliferation, and we look forward to continuing our important bilateral work to advance nuclear security efforts and counter nuclear smuggling," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Simon Limage said in a statement written for delivery during a trip to the former Soviet state.
"We are pleased by the progress that Kazakhstan has made toward strengthening regional nuclear security cooperation by pledging to establish a Nuclear Security Training Center for material accounting, control and physical protection, which will also include a component on combating illicit nuclear trafficking," Limage added in the remarks published on Tuesday.
The diplomat commended Kazakhstan's participation in activities under the auspices of the International Science and Technology Center, an organization established to prevent the spread of WMD expertise.
"The main purpose of my trip here to Kazakhstan was to begin negotiations on a protocol which will ensure the continuation of this valuable nonproliferation organization and allow us to relocate the headquarters to Kazakhstan," he said. "Kazakhstan’s regional leadership on nonproliferation issues makes it in an ideal location for the organization’s new headquarters."
"The ISTC Governing Board has already decided to upgrade the status of the ISTC branch office in Almaty to that of a “main office” in preparation for the relocation of its headquarters and we hope to soon receive a formal letter from the government of Kazakhstan inviting the ISTC to move its headquarters from Russia to Kazakhstan," Limage stated.
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