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Kazakhstan

Chemical

Last Updated: April, 2018

Kazakhstan has not engaged in chemical weapons production since it gained independence in 1991. [1] However, the Soviet Union pursued a chemical warfare (CW) program on its territory until 1987, when President Gorbachev formally decided to halt the CW program. [2] During the Soviet period, Kazakhstan housed one major CW facility, a dual-purpose chemical complex in the city of Pavlodar (northern Kazakhstan). [3] 

The Pavlodar plant manufactured precursor chemicals for CW agents, though it never actually produced any chemical weapons, because Soviet authorities halted the CW program before the final CW production lines were complete. [4] The Soviet Union designed the Pavlodar facility to produce a new generation of binary nerve agents in the 1980s. Although there are no further available details, these binary nerve agents were thought to be Novichok (newcomer) agents that were five to eight times more potent than most V-type agents. [5] In 1987, facilities programmed to operate with final CW agents were destroyed, and intermediate chemical weapon production lines were converted to manufacture organophosphorous products for commercial markets. [6] After independence in 1991, Kazakhstan converted the plant into a civilian chemical production facility. [7] Kazakhstan also housed a production plant in the city of Taraz (Zhambul) and storage barracks on the Ili River, but no open-source information on these facilities is available. [8]

Kazakhstan signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on 13 January 1993 when the Convention first opened for signature, and ratified the CWC seven years later on 23 March 2000. [9] The Law on Export Control of Weapons, Military Technology, and Dual-Use Goods of 18 June 1996 provides the broad legal basis for export controls, which includes chemical materials that could be used for chemical weapons. [10] In November 2000 a new export control list, which included 1,266 items, entered into force. [11]

History

Since Kazakhstan does not have an independent history of chemical weapons production, its past chemical weapons capabilities are discussed in the historical context of the Soviet CW program. Construction of the Pavlodar plant, the only Soviet CW facility built in Kazakhstan, began in 1965 under the authority of the Soviet Ministry of Chemical Industry. [12] By the beginning of the 1990's, the plant extended over 2,500 hectares and employed approximately 6,500 people. As was common practice with Soviet CW production plants, the Pavlodar facility was a dual-use plant with the civilian part of the production facility serving as a cover, producing the basic chemicals for the military part of the plant. [13] 

The five military CW-related facilities at the Pavlodar site included:

  1. A plant for phosphorous trichloride (PCl3) production (PCl3 can be used to produce nerve agents). The plant has been used since 1987 for civilian PCl3 production;
  2. A building designed to produce intermediate and precursor CW chemicals (also converted for civilian use since 1987);
  3. A facility for final CW production, which was not completed by the time construction was halted in 1987;
  4. A building designed for operations with final CW products, which was destroyed in 1987;
  5. Laboratory buildings for testing CW agents on animals, which was not completed by 1987.

The main purpose for constructing the Pavlodar plant was reportedly to substitute for several chemical production lines of the Novocheboksarsk and Volgograd CW plants and to manufacture the latest (1980s-generation) of binary CW agents called Novichok (newcomer). [14]

Recent Developments and Current Status

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government of Kazakhstan inherited the Pavlodar plant and continued commercial chemical production at the facility until 2005, when the plant’s administrators filed for bankruptcy. [15]
 
Bazalt-PV bought the plant in March 2007 for 1.57 billion tenge (approximately $11 million USD). [16] There is also a significant mercury pollution problem in Pavlodar, which is caused by a mercury catalyst used for chlorine and sodium production. [17] Some estimates state that the plant released up to 1,310 tons of metallic mercury into the environment, contaminating the ground water and generating potential human health risks, in addition to environmental concerns. [18] In 2011 Kazakhstan created the Pavlodar Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a tax-free zone designed to develop Kazakhstan’s chemical and petrochemical industries by attracting foreign investors. Preliminary projects in the plant include production of inhibited hydrochloric acid, household chemicals, and disinfectants. [19] Modernization of the plant is scheduled to finish by 2018. [20]

Sources:
[1] "Proliferation: Threat and Response," Department of Defense Report, Second edition, 1997, Federation of American Scientists, www.fas.org.
[2] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[3] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[4] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[5] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[6] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[7] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[8] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[9] "Status of Participation in the Chemical Weapons Convention as at 21 May 2009," Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, www.opcw.org.
[10] Dauletbay Ismagulov, "Ob eksportnom kontrole v Respublike Kazakhstan," Panorama, www.panorama.kz, No. 44, 10 November 2000, p. 3.
[11] Dauletbay Ismagulov, "Ob eksportnom kontrole v Respublike Kazakhstan," Panorama, www.panorama.kz, No. 44, 10 November 2000, p. 3.
[12] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[13] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[14] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[15] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[16] "Kazakhstan: Pavlodar chemical plant's bankruptcy proceedings discussed," Kazinvest, 5 July 2007, www.kazinvest.kz.
[17] Susanne M. Ullrich, Mikhail A. Ilyushchenko, Trevor W. Tanton, Grigory A. Uskov, "Mercury contamination in the vicinity of a derelict chlor-alkali plant: Part II: Contamination of the aquatic and terrestrial food chain and potential risks to the local population," Science of the Total Environment, 1 August 2007, pp. 290-306.
[18] Susanne M. Ullrich, Mikhail A. Ilyushchenko, Trevor W. Tanton, Grigory A. Uskov, "Mercury contamination in the vicinity of a derelict chlor-alkali plant: Part II: Contamination of the aquatic and terrestrial food chain and potential risks to the local population," Science of the Total Environment, 1 August 2007, pp. 290-306; "Mercury pollution in Pavlodar," Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov.
[19] Sergey Gorbunov, “Pavlodar SEZ, Three New Chemical Companies to Further Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy,” The Astana Times, 15 October 2014.
[20] Elena Kosolapova, “Refinery Modernization in Kazakhstan Delayed,” Trend News Agency, 21 February 2016, en.trend.az.

Get the Facts on Kazakhstan
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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2018.