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Kazakhstan

Chemical

Last Updated: April, 2015

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, which operated as a dual-purpose chemical complex in the city of Pavlodar (northern Kazakhstan). [3] Other CW-related facilities in Kazakhstan are a production plant in the city of Taraz (formerly Zhambul), and storage barracks on the Ili River, but no open-source information on these facilities is available. [4]

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. [5] The Pavlodar facility was designed to produce a new generation of binary nerve agents that were developed by the Soviet Union 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. [6] 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. [7] After independence in 1991, Kazakhstan continued the plant's conversion into a civilian chemical production facility. [8]

Kazakhstan signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on 13 January 1993 when the Convention was 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 that include 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 to be 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. [13] As was usually the case 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, and producing the basic chemicals for, the military part of the plant. [13] These facilities were never put into operation since the buildings were incomplete, destroyed, or converted for civilian uses by 1987, when President Gorbachev decided to halt the CW program. [14]

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), which were believed to be five to ten times more potent than the most toxic V-type agents. [15]

Recent Developments and Current Status

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government of Kazakhstan inherited the Pavlodar plant and continued developing civilian production of chemicals. [16] However, due to ongoing economic problems the plant has not been successful in producing commercial chemicals, and in 2005 the plant's administrators filed for bankruptcy. [17] On 27 March 2007, the plant was bought by Bazalt-PV for 1.57 billion tenge (approximately $11 million). [18] It remains unclear whether the plant will be commercially successful in the near future. Moreover, there is a significant mercury pollution problem in Pavlodar, which is caused by the mercury catalyst that was used since 1975 for the production of chlorine and sodium. [19] Some estimate that the plant released up to 1,310 tons of metallic mercury into the environment, contaminating the ground water and the aquatic food chain, and thus generating potential human health risks in addition to environmental concerns. [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] Gulbarshyn Bozeheyeva, "The Pavlodar Chemical Weapons Plant in Kazakhstan: History and Legacy," The Nonproliferation Review, Summer 2000, pp. 136-145.
[17] Tatyana Kirillova, "Zavod kupil inkognito," Ekspert Kazakhstan, 2 April 2007, www.expert.ru.
[18] "Kazakhstan: Pavlodar chemical plant's bankruptcy proceedings discussed," Kazinvest, 5 July 2007, www.kazinvest.kz.
[19] 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.
[20] 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.

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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 2017.