Fact Sheet

Nuclear Disarmament Kazakhstan

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Nuclear Disarmament Kazakhstan

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Arsenal and Missile Types

NPT Non-Nuclear Weapon State, Formerly Possessed Nuclear Weapons

Arsenal Size

  • Kazakhstan possesses no nuclear weapons.
  • Kazakhstan formerly had 1,410 Soviet strategic nuclear warheads placed on its territory and an undisclosed number of tactical nuclear weapons.
  • One of the Soviet Union’s two major nuclear test sites was located at Semipalatinsk, where at least 460 nuclear tests took place.

Estimated Destructive Force

  • N/A

Commitments and Policies

Progress in Disarmament

  • Kazakhstan transferred all of its Soviet-era nuclear weapons to the Russian Federation by April 1995.
  • As part of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program the United States assisted Kazakhstan in removing 1,322 lbs of HEU from the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk. The United States paid Kazakhstan $25 million for the HEU transfer.
  • An IAEA-controlled LEU nuclear fuel bank has been constructed at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant and became operational in October 2019.
  • The Semipalatinsk nuclear test site was officially closed in 1991.
  • From 1995 to 2001, as part of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, the United States assisted Kazakhstan sealing 13 bore holes and 181 tunnels at the test site.
  • From 2012 to 2019 the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) and the Netherlands completed two major radiological security programs in Kazakhstan. These projects secured more than thirteen thousand radioactive sources from Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Center and the Mangystau Atomic Energy Complex.
  • Kazakhstan initiated a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an International Day Against Nuclear Tests, inaugurated in 2010, in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
  • In September 2020 Kazakhstan and the United States downblended the last supply of HEU in the country. 2.9 kg of unirradiated HEU was converted to LEU. They also committed to converting the research reactor at Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Center from and HEU fueled reactor to an LEU fueled reactor by 2021.
  • Security risks, increasingly scrutinized after 9/11, revealed the possibility of scavengers accessing plutonium in the sealed bore holes and tunnels at the site. Between 2001 and 2012 scavengers came within yards of the unguarded fissile material, although there is no indication that any plutonium was removed. October 2012 marked the ceremonial end of the 17-year operation to secure the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site.

Nuclear Weapon Related Policy

  • Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
  • Ratified the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (PTBT)
  • Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)
  • START I (the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty)
  • Ratified the Lisbon Protocol to START I
  • Ratified the Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone
  • Signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)
  • Kazakhstan is the only Soviet successor state to have signed the TPNW
  • Kazakhstan is a party to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO)
  • Kazakhstan permits the testing of Russian ICBMs and ballistic missile defense technology at the Kapustin Yar testing range. One-quarter of that range is located in Kazakhstan.
  • Kazakhstan signed an agreement with a South Korean energy company, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, to begin the introduction of nuclear power to Kazakhstan in 2022.

Kazakhstan is the only former Soviet Central Asian nation to ratify the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS).

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Tactical nuclear weapons
Short-range nuclear weapons, such as artillery shells, bombs, and short-range missiles, deployed for use in battlefield operations.
Cooperative Threat Reduction (Nunn-Lugar) Program
A U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) program established in 1992 by the U.S. Congress, through legislation sponsored primarily by Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar. It is the largest and most diverse U.S. program addressing former Soviet Union weapons of mass destruction threats. The program has focused primarily on: (1) destroying vehicles for delivering nuclear weapons (e.g., missiles and aircraft), their launchers (such as silos and submarines), and their related facilities; (2) securing former Soviet nuclear weapons and their components; and (3) destroying Russian chemical weapons. The term is often used generically to refer to all U.S. nonproliferation programs in the former Soviet Union—and sometimes beyond— including those implemented by the U.S. Departments of Energy, Commerce, and State. The program’s scope has expanded to include threat reduction efforts in geographical areas outside the Former Soviet Union.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Low enriched uranium (LEU)
Low enriched uranium (LEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of the isotope U-235 that is higher than that found in natural uranium but lower than 20% LEU (usually 3 to 5%). LEU is used as fuel for many nuclear reactor designs.
United Nations General Assembly
The UN General Assembly is the largest body of the United Nations. It includes all member states, but its resolutions are not legally binding. It is responsible for much of the work of the United Nations, including controlling finances, passing resolutions, and electing non-permanent members of the Security Council. It has two subsidiary bodies dealing particularly with security and disarmament: the UN General Assembly Committee on Disarmament and International Security (First Committee); and the UN Disarmament Commission. For additional information, see the UNGA.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Plutonium (Pu)
Plutonium (Pu): A transuranic element with atomic number 94, produced when uranium is irradiated in a reactor. It is used primarily in nuclear weapons and, along with uranium, in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium-239, a fissile isotope, is the most suitable isotope for use in nuclear weapons.
Fissile material
Fissile material: A type of fissionable material capable of sustaining a chain reaction by undergoing fission upon the absorption of low-energy (or thermal) neutrons. Uranium-235, Plutonium-239, and Uranium-233 are the most prominently discussed fissile materials for peaceful and nuclear weapons purposes.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT)
The PTBT: Also known as the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water prohibits nuclear weapons tests "or any other nuclear explosion" in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. While the treaty does not ban tests underground, it does prohibit nuclear explosions in this environment if they cause "radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdiction or control" the explosions were conducted. The treaty is of unlimited duration. For additional information, see the PTBT.
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I, II, & III)
Refers to negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation, held between 1982 and 1993 to limit and reduce the numbers of strategic offensive nuclear weapons in each country’s nuclear arsenal. The talks culminated in the 1991 START I Treaty, which entered into force in December 1994, and the 1993 START II Treaty. Although START II was ratified by the two countries, it never entered into force. In 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin discussed the possibility of a START III treaty to make further weapons reductions, but negotiations resulted in a stalemate. Following the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002, Russia declared START II void. START I expired on 5 December 2009, and was followed by the New START treaty. See entries for New START and the Trilateral Statement. For additional information, see the entries for START I, START II, and New START
Lisbon Protocol (START I Protocol)
Lisbon Protocol: Refers to the protocol of the 1991 START I Treaty, which entered in force in December 1994 as the result of negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation, held between 1982 and 1993 to limit and reduce the numbers of strategic offensive nuclear weapons in each country’s nuclear arsenal. For additional information, see entry for Strategic Arms Reduction Talks and START I Treaty.
Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ)
The Central Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone (CANWFZ) includes all five Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The foreign ministers of the five countries signed the treaty establishing the zone on 8 September 2006 at the former Soviet nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. The treaty entered into force on 21 March 2009. For additional information, see the CANWFZ.


  1. Joseph Cirincione, Jon B. Wolfsthal, Miriam Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Threats, (Washington, DC, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005).
  2. “The Soviet Union’s Nuclear Testing Programme,” Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), www.ctbto.org.
  3. Tom Collina, “The Lisbon Protocol at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, July 2008, www.armscontrol.org.
  4. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, “Statement to Conference for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World,” Astana, 12 October 2011, www.iaea.org.;
  5. “Semipalatinsk Revisited: Old Nuclear Test Site Sets New Course,” International Atomic Energy Agency, 31 August 2006, www.iaea.org.
  6. “STS Nuclear Infrastructure Elimination and Conversion,” National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan, https://old.nnc.kz.
  7. “IAEA LEU Bank Becomes Operational with Delivery of Low Enriched Uranium,” 17 October 2019, www.iaea.org.
  8. “Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes: Kazakhstan,” James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, updated 18 November 2011, www.nonproliferation.org.
  9. NWFZ Clearinghouse, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, www.nonproliferation.org.
  10. “NNSA and the Netherlands Help Kazakhstan Improve Radioactive Source Management,” Energy.gov, Accessed 1 February 2021, www.energy.gov/nnsa/.
  11. “Kazakhstan Statement at the 2015 NPT Review Conference,” Statement by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2015 NPT Review Conference, 27 April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  12. “International Day Against Nuclear Tests,” United Nations, accessed 13 July 2015, www.un.org.
  13. “Kazakhstan and U.S. Cooperate to Eliminate Highly Enriched Uranium in Kazakhstan,” Energy.gov, Accessed 1 February 2021, www.energy.gov/nnsa.
  14. Eben Harrell and David E. Hoffman, “Plutonium Mountain: Inside the 17-Year Mission to Secure a Legacy of Soviet Nuclear Testing,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, 15 August 2013, www.belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu.
  15. Kühn, Ulrich, and Ulrich Kühn, “Kazakhstan – Once More a Testing Ground?” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Accessed 1 February 2021, https://carnegieendowment.org.
  16. “Kazakh, Korean companies to cooperate in nuclear power projects,” World Nuclear News, June 29, 2022, www.world-nuclear-news.org.


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