Fact Sheet

Kyrgyzstan Overview

Kyrgyzstan Overview

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Kyrgyzstan does not possess nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs, and is a member of relevant nonproliferation treaties and organizations.

Kyrgyzstan inherited a large uranium mining and milling complex and several military-related industrial facilities when the Soviet Union collapsed. The uranium ore mines are located in Min-Kush in central Kyrgyzstan, Kadji-Say in eastern Kyrgyzstan, and Tyuamuyin in southern Kyrgyzstan. [1] Kyrgyzstan is geographically situated near several countries of proliferation concern, making it a possible transshipment point for illicit trafficking in sensitive materials. [2]

Nuclear

Kyrgyzstan is a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It signed an Additional Protocol agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2007. The foreign ministers of the five Central Asian States — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — signed the Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (CANWFZ) treaty on 8 September 2006. On 22 March 2007, Kyrgyzstan became the first country to ratify the treaty. Kyrgyzstan attended some negotiations surrounding the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but did not formally participate or vote on the treaty. [3]

From the 1950s to the 1990s, the Kara-Balta Ore Mining Combine in northern Kyrgyzstan processed uranium concentrate from deposits in both Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The uranium was used in the Soviet Union's military and civilian nuclear industries. Lack of material halted production at the Kara-Balta facility in 1991, but it resumed in 1994 after the plant reached an agreement with Kazakhstan to process uranium from its Stepnoye and Tsentral mines. [4] In 2000, Kyrgyzstan entered into a joint agreement with Kazakhstan and Russia to process uranium from Kazakhstan's Zarechnoye deposit to supply Russia's nuclear industry. [5] Import of Kazakhstan's uranium ended in 2004, but a new agreement was reached after the Russian investment group Renova purchased the Kara-Balta plant in March 2007. [6] At that time, the plant increased its production and shipped low-enriched uranium to Kazakhstan and Russia. [7] Numerous other mining and milling facilities once operating throughout Kyrgyzstan are now closed, though foreign companies from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and China are actively exploring for uranium and developing new mines. [8] In October 2007, after the sale of the Kara-Balta Plant, the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) invested $150 million to modernize the mill to produce yellowcake and remove 50 year's worth of uranium tailings. [9] The plant shut down in February 2016 and its future is uncertain. [10]

Kyrgyzstan faces challenges associated with uranium tailings, as large amounts of radioactive waste have "accumulated in 36 uranium tailing sites." [11] Radioactive waste stored in Kyrgyzstan poses a significant health threat. Most of the sites are associated with the Mayli-Suu uranium processing facility, which processed over 10,000 metric tons of uranium ore for the Soviet nuclear weapons arsenal from 1946 to 1968. [12] Many storage facilities are located in areas prone to landslides, flooding, and high water levels, and are situated near densely populated areas. [13] The European Union, Russia, and the United States have provided assistance to Kyrgyzstan in developing solutions to these problems. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also established a Coordination Group for Uranium Legacy Sites, which seeks to evaluate remedial options for tailings in these areas. [14] [15] [16]

Not all radiological materials were reported to local governments during the Soviet era, leaving these materials unaccounted for. [17] Kyrgyzstan secured 1,000 items containing radioactive material in 2005, with approximately 500 items remaining unsecured, and an unknown number missing. [18]

Like other states in the region, Kyrgyzstan has struggled to combat illicit trafficking of nuclear-related materials. Although Kyrgyzstan began creating a legal framework for export controls as early as 1992, its virtually unsecured borders created the potential for the trafficking of nuclear-related material along routes used to smuggle drugs. In connection with the 2000 trilateral agreement on the Kara-Balta Plant, the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy agreed to rebuild part of Kyrgyzstan's border control system by supplying equipment for at least 350km of the state's borders. [19] The United States has also provided Kyrgyzstan with millions of dollar's worth of equipment and training to improve export and border control systems. [20] Kyrgyzstan signed the Minsk Accord on CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Export Control Coordination in 1992, but, as with other CIS initiatives, results have been limited. [21]

Biological

Kyrgyzstan is a party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), and does not possess biological weapons.

Chemical

Kyrgyzstan is a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and does not possess chemical weapons.

Missile

Kyrgyzstan does not possess ballistic missiles, and lacks the industrial capability to produce them. Kyrgyzstan does not subscribe to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC).

Sources:
[1] "Kirgiz Mining Combine," April 2005, Globalsecurity.org.
[2] Cassady B. Craft, Suzette R. Grillot, and Liam Anderson, "The Dangerous Ground: Nonproliferation Export-Control Development in the Southern Tier of the Former Soviet Union," Problems of Post-Communism, 47, no. 6, November/December 2000, pp. 39-51.
[3] UN General Assembly, “7 July 2017 – Voting results on L.3/Rev.1,” Item 9, A/CONF.229/2017/L.3/Rev.1 – Draft Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons 7 July, 2017, https://s3.amazonaws.com; “Positions on the Treaty,” ican – international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, n.d., www.icanw.org.
[4] Minerals Yearbook, Area Reports: International 2008 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 2010).
[5] Minerals Yearbook, Area Reports: International 2008 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 2010).
[6] "Kyrgyzstan again fails to sell Kara-Balta uranium plant," The Times of Central Asia, 13 October 2006; "Uranium in Central Asia," World Nuclear Association, May 2011, www.world-nuclear.org.
[7] "Uranium in Central Asia," World Nuclear Association, February 2011, www.world-nuclear.org; Jim Nichol, "Central Asia's Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests," Congressional Research Service, 11 March 2010, www.fas.org.
[8] "Uranium in Central Asia," World Nuclear Association, May 2011, www.world-nuclear.org.
[9] "Partners agree to develop Kara Balta mill," World Nuclear News, 20 October 2008, www.world-nuclear-news.org; "Uranium in Central Asia," World Nuclear Association, February 2011, www.world-nuclear.org.
[10] “Uranium in Kyrgyzstan,” World Nuclear Association, Last Modified May 2016, www.world-nuclear.org; Nazgul Begaliyeva, “Production at the Kara-Balta Ore Mining Combine will resume in 2017” (in Russian), Evening Bishkek, April 19, 2016, www.vb.kg.
[11] Margarita Sevcik, "Uranium Tailings in Kyrgyzstan: Catalyst for Cooperation and Confidence Building?" The Nonproliferation Review, 10, no. 1, Spring 2003.
[12] David Trilling, "Kyrgyzstan: Radioactive Legacy Vexes Bishkek," EurasiaNet.org, 26 May 2009, www.eurasianet.org.
[13] United Nations, "Uranium Tailings in Central Asia," 2009, www.un.org.
[14] Oleg Voitsekhovych and A. Jakubik, "Preliminary Hazards Analyses at the Uranium Production Legacy Sites Minkush and Mailuu Suu Kyrgyzstan," Presentation at the IAEA Technical Meeting of the Uranium Mining and Remediation Exchange Group, 23-24 September 2014, www.iaea.org.
[15] Ryskeldi Satke, “Soviet Uranium Mines Still Have Deadly Impact in Kyrgyzstan,” The Diplomat, 13 December 2016, thediplomat.com.; “Agreements signed for EBRD uranium legacy fund,” World Nuclear News, 24 January 2017, world-nuclear-news.org.
[16] “Kyrgyzstan Ratifies Remediation Agreement,” World Nuclear News, 18 August 2017, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
[17] Togzhan Kassenova, "Central Asia: Regional Security and WMD Proliferation Threats," Disarmament Forum Central Asia at the Crossroads, no. 4, 2007, pp. 13-24, www.unidir.org.
[18] Rob Broomby, "Kyrgyz hunt for radioactive matter," BBC, 7 October 2005, www.bbc.com.
[19] Lyudmila Romanova, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 23 June 2000, p. 5; Brian Killen, "Part of Ancient Silk Road Is Now Opium Road," Washington Post, 3 October 1996 www.washingtonpost.com.
[20] Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, "Country Assessments and Performance Measures — Kyrgyz Republic," U.S. Department of State, January 2005, www.state.gov.
[21] Government of Kyrgyzstan, "Action Plan of the Kyrgyzstan for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004)," 2 April 2013, www.un.org.

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Glossary

Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Nonproliferation
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
Uranium
Uranium is a metal with the atomic number 92. See entries for enriched uranium, low enriched uranium, and highly enriched uranium.
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.
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.
Additional Protocol
The Additional Protocol is a legal document granting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) complementary inspection authority to that provided in underlying safeguards agreements. The principal aim is to enable the IAEA inspectorate to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities. Under the Protocol, the IAEA is granted expanded rights of access to information and sites, as well as additional authority to use the most advanced technologies during the verification process. See entry for Information Circular 540.
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.
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.
Ratification
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.
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.
Radioactive waste
Radioactive waste: Materials which are radioactive and for which there is no further use.
Export control
National laws or international arrangements established to restrict the sale of certain goods to certain countries, or to ensure that safeguards or end-use guarantees are applied to the export and sale of sensitive and dual-use technologies and materials. See entry for Dual-use
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missiles (ICOC)
ICOC: A legally non-binding arrangement that was launched with the objective of preventing and curbing the proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. States adhering to the ICOC agree not to assist ballistic missile programs in countries suspected of developing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, as well as to exhibit "restraint" in the development and testing of their own ballistic missiles. It eventually became the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missiles (HCOC). For additional information, see the HCOC.

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