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Uzbekistan Overview

Uzbekistan Overview

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Nuclear

This page is part of Uzbekistan’s Country Profile.

Uzbekistan does not possess nuclear weapons, although tactical nuclear weapons may have been present on its territory during the Soviet era. Additionally, when “peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs)” were considered to be viable civil applications of nuclear technology, the Soviet Union used two PNEs in what is now southern Uzbekistan to seal runaway gas well fires in 1966 and 1968. 1 Uzbekistan is a non-nuclear weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). At the 48th session of the UN General Assembly in 1993, Uzbek President Islam Karimov formally proposed the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ) treaty. The foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan signed the treaty on 8 September 2006. Uzbekistan ratified the CANWFZ in April 2007.

Uzbekistan possesses two operational nuclear research reactors. The first is at the Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP) in Ulugbek, outside of Tashkent. In addition to the 10MW VVR-SM reactor, the institute includes two cyclotrons, a gamma source facility, a neutron generator, and a radiochemical complex. 2 The reactor operated on 90 percent highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel from 1979 until August 1998, when it was converted to 36 percent HEU under a Russian program to eliminate the use of 90 percent HEU in Soviet-supplied reactors abroad. 3 The United States provided funding and technical assistance for several projects at the INP under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which seeks to secure and/or dispose of “high risk vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the world.” 4 In March 2008, the reactor was converted to use low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel (19.7 percent), which poses little proliferation risk. 5 In a 2004 joint effort between the United States, Uzbekistan, Russia, and the IAEA, nearly 11 kilograms of enriched uranium fuel, including three kilograms of HEU, were repatriated from the INP to Russia to be downblended into LEU fuel. 6 In 2006, 63 kilograms of irradiated HEU, most enriched to 90 percent, were moved to the Russian Mayak facility. 7 This material was particularly high risk because its radioactivity had decreased such that it was no longer considered “self-protecting.” After seven transfers of HEU from the facility to Russia, on 1 November 2012 the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that the INP facility had been completely cleared of HEU. 8 JSV Foton owns and operates the second research reactor, a 20KWt (static) pulse reactor, which it uses to test the radiation resistance of electronics. 9

When it was a part of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan provided much of the uranium for the Soviet military-industrial complex. 10 The Navoi Mining and Metallurgy Combine (NMMC) of the state holding company Kyzylkumredmetzoloto operates six in-situ leaching mines, with nine additional mines under development, and five other confirmed, commercially viable deposits. 11 The resulting product is sent to a plant in the city of Navoi to produce U3O8 (also known as yellowcake), for export to the United States, South Korea, and other countries. 12 All uranium production facilities in Uzbekistan are covered under an IAEA safeguards agreement. 13

The United States has provided millions of dollars worth of equipment and training to improve Uzbek border security and export controls under its Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance Program (EXBS); the International Counterproliferation Program (ICP); and the WMD Proliferation Prevention Program (PPP). 14

Biological

Uzbekistan inherited several former biological weapons facilities from the Soviet Union, some of which still contain extensive collections of microorganisms, including dangerous pathogens. 15

The largest Soviet biological weapon field-testing facility was an open-area test site located on Vozrozhdeniye Island, which has become part of a peninsula now that the Aral Sea has largely dried up. Biological agents tested at the facility included tularemia, plague, brucellosis, Q fever, Venezuelan encephalitis and Anthrax. 16 On 11 April 1992, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin officially closed the military site on the island, and in subsequent years the facilities were partially dismantled and decontaminated. However, concerns remained about the safety and effectiveness of the disposal methods used. 17

In October 2001, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Uzbek Ministry of Defense signed an agreement which allowed the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program to spend up to $6 million dollars to prevent the spread of biological weapons materials and technology. 18 Uzbekistan and the United States agreed upon a two-stage project to further decontaminate Vozrozhdeniye Island and to dismantle approximately 20 biological weapons facilities. 19 In May 2002, a team from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) opened 11 concrete-lined pits containing anthrax slurries and mixed the soil with a decontamination agent.

Additionally, the DTRA spent $1.3 million to construct two Regional Diagnostic Laboratories located in Andijan and Ferghana. The laboratories opened on 25 March 2011, and are designed to help Uzbekistan detect and monitor disease outbreaks. 20 The United States has also funded research projects to employ former biological weapons scientists. 21 Uzbekistan is a party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC).

Missile

Uzbekistan does not possess a ballistic missile program, though it does have the industrial capacity to produce related components and technologies. Uzbekistan is a party to the Hague Code of Conduct  Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). It has one inspection eligible site under the INF, but with the consent of the other state parties does not participate in inspections or treaty-related meetings. 22

Chemical

Uzbekistan inherited the Chemical Research Institute (CRI) from the Soviet Union, a chemical weapons facility built in 1986 and located near the city of Nukus in what is now western Uzbekistan. Operated by the Red Army, the test site was used to field-test a new class of binary chemical agents, known as novichok or “newcomer” in Russian. 23 In May 1999 at the U.S.-Uzbek Joint Commission, Uzbekistan and the United States signed a CTR Implementation Agreement to secure, dismantle, and decontaminate the Chemical Research Institute. 24 The CTR program completed the project in May 2002, having spent approximately $8.5 million. 25 In June 2002, U.S. military personnel detected traces of nerve and mustard gas at the Karshi-Khanabad (K-2) air base, which the United States used from 2001 to 2005. 26 Though there were no reported injuries or proliferation risks, the presence of these agents, probably from chemical weapons once stored at the base, illustrates the continuing and yet to be fully understood consequences of the Soviet chemical weapons program. 27 Uzbekistan is a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), but is not a member of the Australia Group.

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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).
Tactical nuclear weapons
Short-range nuclear weapons, such as artillery shells, bombs, and short-range missiles, deployed for use in battlefield operations.
Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE)
PNEs are nuclear explosions carried out for non-military purposes, such as the construction of harbors or canals. PNEs are technically indistinguishable from nuclear explosions of a military nature. Although Article V of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) allows for PNEs, no significant peaceful benefits of these explosions (that outweigh the drawbacks), have been discovered. In the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the state parties agreed that Article V of the NPT is to be interpreted in light of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which will ban all nuclear explosions, including PNEs, once it enters into force.
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS)
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS): Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), NNWS are states that had not detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, and who agree in joining the NPT to refrain from pursuing nuclear weapons (that is, all state parties to the NPT other than the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Research reactor
Research reactor: Small fission reactors designed to produce neutrons for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, training, and medical isotope production. Unlike commercial power reactors, they are not designed to generate power.
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.
Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI)
The GTRI: A program established by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration in May 2004 to identify, secure, remove, and/or facilitate the removal of vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the world. The GTRI incorporated, among other programs, longstanding U.S. efforts under the RERTR program to convert domestic and foreign research reactors from highly enriched uranium fuel to low-enriched uranium fuel. See entry for RERTR 
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.
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium: Uranium with an increased concentration of the isotope U-235, relative to natural uranium. Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent U-235, whereas nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to very high levels (see the definitions for “highly enriched uranium” and “weapons-grade”). Nuclear power plant fuel typically uses uranium enriched to 3 to 5 percent U-235, material that is not sufficiently enriched to be used for nuclear weapons.
Radioactivity
Radioactivity: The spontaneous emission of radiation, generally alpha or beta particles, often accompanied by gamma rays, from the nucleus of an unstable isotope.
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 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.
Pathogen
Pathogen: A microorganism capable of causing disease.
Tularemia
Tularemia is a disease caused by Francisella tularensis, a bacterium that is native to rabbits and aquatic mammals, but is also one of the most infectious pathogens to humans. Tularemia can survive in harsh conditions, and just one organism can cause human infection. Tularemia aerosols can incapacitate a patient within one or two days. Tularemia infection causes fever and skin lesions, and can eventually develop into pneumonia. The Soviet Union and Japan investigated F. tularensis for bioweapons purposes during World War II, as did the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.
Plague
Plague: The disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. There are three forms of plague: bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, and septicemic plague. Bubonic plague refers to infection of the lymph nodes by Y. pestis, causing black sores or “buboes,” pneumonic plague refers to infection of the lungs, and septicemic plague refers to infection of the bloodstream. Although no longer a serious public health hazard in the developed world, the bacterium can spread from person-to-person in aerosolized form, and has been investigated as a biological weapon by Japan and the Soviet Union.
Anthrax
The common name of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, as well as the name of the disease it produces.  A predominantly animal disease, anthrax can also infect humans and cause death within days.  B. anthracis bacteria can form hardy spores, making them relatively easy to disseminate.  Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the USSR/Russia have all investigated anthrax as a biological weapon, as did the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo.  Anthrax-laced letters were also used to attack the U.S. Senate and numerous news agencies in September 2001.  There is no vaccine available to the general public, and treatment requires aggressive administration of antibiotics.
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.
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.
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.
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
A treaty between the United States and the former Soviet Union, signed on 8 December 1987, which entered into force on 1 June 1988. It aimed to eliminate and ban all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 300 and 3,400 miles (500 to 5,500 kilometers). The treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to conduct inspections at each other's sites during the elimination of treaty-limited items (TLI). By May 1991, all intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, launchers, related support equipment, and support structures were eliminated. For additional information, see the INF Treaty.
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.
Binary chemical weapon
A munition in which two or more relatively harmless chemical substances, held in separate containers, react when mixed or combined to produce a more toxic chemical agent. The mixing occurs either in-flight, for instance in a chemical warhead attached to a ballistic missile or gravity bomb, or on the battlefield immediately prior to use. The mechanism has significant benefits for the production, transportation and handling of chemical weapons, since the precursor chemicals are usually less toxic than the compound created by combining them.  Binary weapons for sarin and VX are known to have been developed; or
A munition containing two toxic chemical agents.  The United Kingdom combined chlorine and sulfur chloride during World War I and the United States combined sulfur mustard and lewisite. This definition is less commonly used.
Nerve agent
A nerve agent is a chemical weapon that attacks the human nervous system, leading to uncontrolled nerve cell excitation and muscle contraction. Specifically, nerve agents block the enzyme cholinesterease, so acetylcholine builds up in the nerve junction and the neuron cannot return to the rest state. Nerve agents include the G-series nerve agents (soman, sarin, tabun, and GF) synthesized by Germany during and after World War II; the more toxic V-series nerve agents (VX, VE, VM, VG, VR) discovered by the United Kingdom during the 1950s; and the reportedly even more toxic Novichok agents, developed by the Soviet Union between 1960 and 1990. The development of both the G-series and V-series nerve agents occurred alongside pesticide development.
Mustard (HD)
Mustard is a blister agent, or vesicant. The term mustard gas typically refers to sulfur mustard (HD), despite HD being neither a mustard nor a gas. Sulfur mustard gained notoriety during World War I for causing more casualties than all of the other chemical agents combined. Victims develop painful blisters on their skin, as well as lung and eye irritation leading to potential pulmonary edema and blindness. However, mustard exposure is usually not fatal. A liquid at room temperature, sulfur mustard has been delivered using artillery shells and aerial bombs. HD is closely related to the nitrogen mustards (HN-1, HN-2, HN—3).
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.
Australia Group (AG)
Australia Group (AG): Established in 1985 to limit the spread of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) through export controls on chemical precursors, equipment, agents, and organisms. For additional information, see the Australia Group.

Sources

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  2. Institute of Nuclear Physics, Academy of Science of Uzbekistan, www.inp.uz.
  3. E. P. Ryazantsev, et al., “Testing of the IRT-4M Type FA with LEU UO2-Al Fuel in WWR-CM Reactor,” Paper Presented at the 1998 International RERTR Meeting, 18-23 October 1998, Sao Paulo, Brazil, www.iaea.org.
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