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Mangyshlak Atomic Energy Combine

  • Location
    Aktau (formerly Shevchenko), Mangystau Oblast
  • Type
    Nuclear-Power Reactor
  • Facility Status
    Shut down

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It’s primary function is to breed plutonium and to operate as a source of electricity, district heating, and water desalinization for the city of Aktau. 1

The BN-350 reactor was the only power reactor in the world used for industrial scale-desalinization (up to 100,000 t/d). 2 The BN-350 reactor was permanently shut down on 22 April 1999. 3 4 First connected to the grid on 16 July 1973, the operating life of the reactor was originally 20 years, to end in 1993. However, Kazakhstani Atomic Energy authorities approved extension of the reactor’s operations until 2003, with more comprehensive inspections and equipment upgrades. 5

  • Type: BN-350 liquid metal fast breeder reactor (LMFBR), sodium coolant.
  • Power: Design capacity 250 MWe; average thermal capacity 592 MW. 6 Average electrical capacity 135 MWe. 7
  • Fuel: Designed to use uranium fuel enriched to 20-25 percent, as well as MOX fuel (23.19 percent Pu). 8 Approximately 10 fuel assemblies and 100 fuel elements of MOX fuel were loaded into the reactor in the 1990s. 9 Other sources indicate some experiments were done with fuel containing up to 30 percent plutonium. The BN-350 was capable of generating over 110 kg of plutonium each year. 10 Fuel burn-up was increased from 6.3 percent to 10 percent, with plans to increase it to 11.8 percent. 11 Historically, MAEK received fresh fuel supplies exclusively from the Machine Building Plant (MSZ) in Elektrostal, outside Moscow, Russia. 12 On 26 August 2006 construction of a platform for long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel from the BN-350 reactor began. 13
  • Energy Statistics: The electricity generated by the reactor made up 0.7% of Kazakhstan’s total output in 1997. 14 A third of the reactor’s energy output was used to desalinate water. 15 The total production of this reactor in 1993 was 444,000 MWh and 17.2 billion kg of desalinated water. In 1994, the reactor produced 378,000 MWh, or 0.58 percent of Kazakhstan’s total electricity output. 16


MAEK participates in the US Department of Energy MPC&A Program. MPC&A collaboration began in September 1995, and initial projects were completed by September 1998. Physical protection upgrades included a central alarm station, personnel and vehicle portal monitoring systems, exterior lighting and cameras, surveillance and intrusion sensors inside the BN-350 reactor building, and improved communications for site and MVD security forces. Upgraded material accounting systems included computer workstations, accounting software, and an unattended radiation monitoring system. 17 Kazakhstani officials are concerned about their ability to maintain and obtain spare parts for newly installed MPC&A equipment, and have also remarked that facility specialists need more training on nonproliferation issues. 18 Follow-on activities, including periodic visits by technical experts, will be required to maintain the installed systems until Kazakhstan develops a rigorous national regulatory system. The BN-350 reactor is under IAEA safeguards pursuant to the Safeguards Agreement concluded between Kazakhstan and the IAEA in 1995. In accordance with the IAEA’s Criteria, the BN-350 facility is at present inspected once per month for timeliness verification and once per year for a physical inventory verification. 19

Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste

MAEK was a part of the Soviet Union’s nuclear complex and used to return irradiated assemblies to Russia’s Mayak Production Association (PO Mayak) in Chelyabinsk Oblast for reprocessing after cooling in the BN-350 pool. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, spent fuel shipments to Russia stopped. Some of the fuel assemblies irradiated over the 25 years of operation remain in the reactor facility’s cooling pool. 20 According to the US Department of Energy, three tons of weapons-grade plutonium and 10 metric tons of HEU is contained in approximately 300MT of spent fuel at the site. 21 22 Argonne National Laboratories designed, fabricated, and installed a machine in mid-1998 to stabilize and package the fuel for long-term storage in steel containers. 23 To fabricate steel storage containers, Argonne partnered with Byelkamit, a CTR joint venture between Byelocorp Scientific International (BSI), Inc., of Rochester, NY, and Gidromash, a Kazakhstani torpedo-manufacturing plant. 24 25 By mid-1999, the plant was manufacturing large steel canisters, each designed to hold six assemblies. 26 27 “Hot” and “cool” spent fuel assemblies were packaged together in the canisters and returned to storage ponds, making the cool spent fuel less vulnerable to diversion. 28 29 The packaging of spent fuel was completed in June 2001. 30 DOE requested $31.7 million in FY2008 funds for the serial production and delivery of 27 100 metric ton casks, as part of the effort to move all spent fuel from the site to the Baykal waste storage facility on the Semipalatinsk site by 2010. 31

Maek Developments

8 October 2005: Kazakhstan Announces Success of HEU Blend-Down Project
In a joint operation involving Kazatomprom and the Nuclear Threat Initiative that began in 2001, 2,900 kg of 26% enriched nuclear fuel was transferred from Aktau to Ulba to be blended down to non-weapons usable forms of uranium for use in commercial and scientific activities. The project involved several steps: Nuclear workers in Aktau loaded onto rail cars fresh HEU fuel assemblies designed, but never used, for the BN-350 reactor. The fuel assemblies were transported Ulba, where security upgrades had been installed to permit HEU storage. A blend-down line and additional security upgrades to allow HEU processing were designed, licensed, and installed at Ulba to carry out the operations. Costs of the project, approximately $2 million, were shared equally between NTI and Kazatomprom. The IAEA applied safeguards during transport, commissioning, and downblending. The facilities constructed at Ulba to blend down the BN-350 HEU fuel will remain operation and could be used in the future to eliminate other weapons-usable uranium. 32

August 2004: Talks on BN-350 Spent Fuel Stall
U.S.-Kazakhstani negotiations on the fate of the BN-350 plutonium-laden spent fuel have stalled, raising concerns that the material, which continues to cool, may be vulnerable to theft, in spite of increased security and safeguards at the site. According to press reports, the Kazakhstani government wants to transfer the material to a storage site yet to be constructed at the former Semipalatinsk Test Site. The United States reportedly wants the spent fuel shipped to existing secure facilities in Russia. 33

May 2003: Plutonium from Aktau to be Moved to Semipalatinsk
An article in the May 2003 issue of Science reports that Kazakhstani and US officials are about to make an $80 million deal to transfer 3 metric tons (t) of “ivory grade” plutonium, containing more than 90% Pu-239, from Aktau to Semipalatinsk. The plutonium comes from the BN-350 breeder reactor at the Mangyshlak Atomic Energy Combine (MAEK) and is contained in 300t of highly radioactive spent fuel. During the transportation procedure, which is likely to start in 2004 and continue until 2007, the spent fuel will be loaded into specially-manufactured containers and shipped by rail to the Semipalatinsk Test Site. According to Timur Zhantikin, chairman of the Kazakhstani Atomic Energy Committee, the spent fuel will be stored in underground silos at the Baykal-1 reactor complex. 34

30 April 2003: MAEK Sold for $740K
On 30 April 2003 Kazatomprom purchased MAEK for 112 million tenge, or $740,000, at a Dutch-style auction. The initial starting price for the plant was over 6 billion tenge ($40 million as of 30 April 2003). The auction was set to be based on the English method, then shifted to the Dutch method if the first method did not produce results. 35 Kazatomprom management plans an extensive overhaul of MAEK facilities, budgeting over 1.5 billion tenge ($10 million as of 30 April 2003) for repairs. The president of Kazatomprom, Mukhtar Dzhakishev, also noted there were plans to raise worker salaries, and provide bonuses for exceptional work. Funds for this wage increase will not be raised by increasing power costs to customers, but instead by using savings from lower overhead costs. 36

11 February 2003: IAEA to Consider Plan to Mothball BN-350 Reactor
On 11 February 2003, Interfax reported that, according to Kazakhstani National Nuclear Center Deputy Director Irina Tazhibayeva, Kazakhstan will submit a plan to mothball the BN-350 reactor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in March 2003. The IAEA will consider the plan within 2-3 months of submission and provide recommendations to Kazakhstan regarding the final decision. Tazhibayeva noted that after its approval, the plan will be presented to a conference of donor-states to attract funding. This aid will supplement the material and technical assistance already provided by the United States, Japan, and the European Union’s Technical Assistance to the CIS program. As of February 2003, $40 million has been spent on the project. The estimated total cost of the project is $300 million. 37

16 January 2003: MAEK Declared Bankrupt
According to Interfax, on 16 January 2003 the Mangystau Oblast court declared MAEK bankrupt. The court ordered the dissolution of MAEK, the termination of restructuring procedures at the facility, and initiation of proceedings for the facility’s sale. 38 The court ruling was the result of a government decree issued at the end of 2002, instructing the Ministry of Finance to start legal actions for declaring the enterprise bankrupt and selling MAEK property to a new investor. 39

According to the government decree, the new owner must ensure integrated production engineering, a regular supply of electricity, heat and water to the region, and maintenance of the BN-350 reactor to sustain radiation safety. The decree also limits potential owners to legal entities holding a license for operating nuclear facilities with at least five years of experience in Kazakhstan’s nuclear industry. 40 Those requirements are met by just three enterprises in Kazakhstan: the State Corporation for Atomic Power and Industry (KATEP), National Nuclear Center, and Kazatomprom. Kazatomprom is the most likely candidate for ownership of the MAEK property, according to government sources. 41

Restructuring procedures at MAEK began in February 1999. Although deadlines were extended several times, the final deadline was set for February 2003. 42 43 According to the Kazakhstani Finance Ministry’s Tax Committee, by 23 December 2002 (the date when the above government decree was issued) only about 700 million tenge (about $4.5 million as of January 2003) of the enterprise’s pre-restructuring budget debt of approximately 3.3 billion tenge (about $21.3 million) had been paid off. The Tax Committee alleges that the debtor did not implement a rehabilitation plan and thus continued to harm the national interests of Kazakhstan. 44

10 April 2002: MAEK Nuclear Reactor to be Mothballed by June 2003
According to Petr Nazarenko, MAEK’s technical director, Kazakhstan plans to remove all radioactive sodium coolant from its BN-350 reactor by June 2003, after which the reactor will be mothballed. As of April 2002, about 1,000 tons of radioactive sodium was circulating in the reactor. Approximately $2 million per year is required to maintain the reactor, according to Nazarenko. 45

12 December 2001: DOE, Kazakhstan Consider Long-Term Storage Options
According to Douglas Newton, project manager of the Kazakhstan Breeder Reactor Closure Project, the US Department of Energy and Department of State are still working with the Kazakhstani government on several long-term storage options for BN-350’s ivory-grade plutonium. This is in spite of announcements from Kazakhstani officials of their intention to store the plutonium in northeastern Kazakhstan. Some experts believe that the best place for Aktau’s plutonium is Russia. For more information, please see the 8/29/2000 entry, below. 46

According to Vladimir Karaulov, director of the BN-350 Fast Breeder Reactor, the reactor is in the final stage of decommissioning. The radioactive sodium coolant will be decontaminated of cesium in 2002 and drained in 2003. The coolant will be converted to caustic soda by 2006. After this process is complete, the reactor will be mothballed for 50 years. At that time decisions about final dismantlement of the reactor site will be made. 47

On 12 July 2001 MAEK hosted a ceremony marking the completion of the packaging of spent fuel at the BN-350 nuclear reactor in Aktau. The ceremony was attended by representatives of the National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the International Atomic Energy Agency, US national laboratories, and the US Embassy in Kazakhstan. During the two-and-a-half year packaging process, 3,000 spent fuel assemblies were stabilized and packaged into 478 canisters and then placed into a cooling pond with an IAEA seal. The cost of unloading and packaging the spent fuel amounted to $40 million. 48

Shamil Tukhvatulin, director of the National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan, announced that the total cost for long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel from the BN-350 fast breeder reactor will amount to $20-40 million. According to Tukhvatulin, the spent fuel will be transported to the former Semipalatinsk Test Site for long-term storage. 49

On 9 April 2001 the US Department of Energy released its FY 2002 budget request, in which $8.9 million was requested for the Spent Fuel Initiative in Kazakhstan. This is a 40% decrease from the FY 2001 allocation of $15.8 million. The FY 2002 budget request states that the reduced level reflects the “stretch out of completion,” presumably referring to delays in selecting a long-term storage site for the plutonium. For more information, see the developments from 24 November 2000 and 20 December 1999. 50

According to a Vremya MN report, containers of spent fuel from MAEK have been placed under 18 meters of seawater in a special reservoir for a period of five years while a long-term storage site is constructed. Inspection teams from the IAEA and the United States announced that there were no malfunctions in the packaging process and that the material has been successfully stored at the bottom of the reservoir. The packaging and storage technology was developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory. 51 Officials from the Kazakhstani National Nuclear Center (NNC) told Interfax that a long-term storage facility for the spent fuel will likely be constructed at the Baykal complex on the former Semipalatinsk Test Site. 52

On 28-29 August 2000, US Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson held meetings with Kazakhstani President Nazarbayev and Minister of Energy, Industry, and Trade Shkolnik. Richardson announced that the joint US-Kazakhstan project to package weapons-grade plutonium at MAEK is 85% complete, with over 2.5 tons of “ivory grade” plutonium, or 2,800 fuel assemblies, secured. MAEK contains a total of 3 tons of “ivory grade” plutonium contained in approximately 300 metric tons of spent fuel. Ivory-grade plutonium is plutonium with an even lower percentage of undesirable isotopes than typical weapons-grade plutonium. Upon completion of the packaging project, anticipated for February 2001, the United States and Kazakhstan will proceed with plans for long-term storage and disposition of the fuel. Richardson reported that thus far, the United States has budgeted $3.8 million to support efforts to safely shut down the BN-350 reactor as part of a December 1999 US-Kazakhstan agreement. Richardson also announced that DOE’s Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention project will award up to $4 million to nine Kazakhstani institutes to create employment opportunities for scientists with expertise in weapons of mass destruction. 53 54

According to a 7 February 2000 federal budget request, the US Department of Energy allocated $15.5 million for FY2000 and requested $16 million for 2001 for the BN-350 reactor decommissioning project in Kazakhstan. 55

According to a 28 February 2000 report on Kazakhstan’s Khabar Television, the unloading of the nuclear fuel at the BN-350 nuclear reactor has begun. KATEP’s Department for Decommissioning is responsible for coordinating this work. 56

According to a 4 February 2000 report, Kazakhstani Minister of Energy Vladimir Shkolnik announced that the schedule for decommissioning the BN-350 nuclear reactor will be developed by September 2000. Shkolnik also mentioned that an international conference regarding this issue will be conducted in May 2000. 57

US Assistant Secretary of Energy Rose Gottemoeller met with Kazakhstani Minister of Energy, Industry, and Trade Vladimir Shkolnik in Astana to discuss US Department of Energy assistance programs in Kazakhstan. The two parties discussed two ongoing DOE projects in Kazakhstan: closing and decommissioning the BN-350 reactor in Aktau, and securing and disposing of spent fuel stored at the Aktau site. Gottemoeller announced that the United States has provided Kazakhstan with $50 million in assistance each year since 1993 for nuclear disarmament. On the decommissioning of the Aktau reactor, Gottemoeller added that the project will be a lengthy one and will require a total of $85 million. In response to reporters’ questions about the MiG export scandal, Gottemoeller noted that Kazakhstan and the United States have signed an agreement whereby the US will help develop an appropriate automated export control system for Kazakhstan. The agreement also provides for training of Kazakhstani export control personnel in the United States and for assistance in amending existing export control laws in Kazakhstan. 58 59

US Secretary of Energy William Richardson and Kazakhstani Minister of Energy Vladimir Shkolnik signed an agreement to close and decommission the BN-350 reactor in Aktau at the US-Kazakhstani Bilateral Commission meeting on 20 December 1999 in Washington, DC. Secretary Richardson announced that a joint US-Kazakhstani expert group will launch a study of the long-term storage options for spent fuel currently stored at the site. 60

According to a televised report on 12 June 1999, the first stage of mothballing of MAEK’s power reactor has begun. MAEK physicists and and production staff will take part in only the first stage of the mothballing process, which will last five years. According to MAEK Chief Engineer Petr Nazarenko, nuclear specialists at MAEK will be fully employed until the reactor is rendered safe, and will then be transferred to other jobs. According to unnamed specialists, the entire mothballing process will take 50 years and will be funded by external sources. 61 According to Nuclear Engineering International, the United States will assist in the decommissioning work and transfer technology to Kazakh companies, and the European Union’s TACIS program will also provide aid. 62

Director of the Moscow Center of the World Association of Nuclear Operators Farit Tukhvetov said that the BN-350 reactor at Aktau was officially shut down on 22 April 1999. According to Tukhvetov, Kazakhstani authorities decided that the reactor was too isolated from technical support and design organizations in Russia. 63

According to a report published on 15 October 1998, Kazakhstani Minister of Science Vladimir Shkolnik said that the BN-350 reactor at Aktau will resume operations in November 1998 after a repair outage and will continue to generate weapons-grade plutonium in its depleted uranium blanket for several years. Because the reactor is expected to shut down before 2005, the cost of converting the reactor’s blanket to a non-fertile material like iron was not considered justifiable. The spent fuel stored in pools at the reactor site contain between two and three MT of weapons-grade plutonium produced at the reactor. Kazakhstan continues negotiations with US and European industry and governments over long-term storage options for spent fuel from Aktau, and a decision on waste disposition is expected in 1999. 64

According to a paper presented at a conference in Kurchatov on 14 September 1998, Japan has provided technical support for MPC&A at the BN-350 reactor facility at Aktau. The Japanese firm PENSCO Co. Ltd, with technical cooperation from the Power Reactor and Nuclear Development Corporation (PNC), has provided a flow monitoring system (including a neutron detector, gamma detector, and personal computers) for monitoring the removal of fuel from the reactor core, along with other equipment for use in IAEA inspections. PENSCO also supplied software, personal computers, and local area network hardware for Aktau’s material accounting and control system, including a program for calculating fuel composition and burn-up. Japan and the United states coordinated their support for physical protection at Aktau, including provision of identity card readers, turnstiles, metal detectors, x-ray detectors, and a TV monitoring system. Similar physical protection support was also provided to the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Agency and Kazakhstan’s Institute of Atomic Energy. 65

According to Timur Zhantikin, Director of the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Agency, more than 3MT of nuclear waste from the BN-350 reactor at Aktau will be transported from the reactor to the burial site at Semipalatinsk starting in November 1998. US experts have been closely involved in the waste transport project, and high-tech storage containers and transport equipment will be paid for with US funds, according to a November 1998 agreement signed by the United States and Kazakhstan. The waste, which includes plutonium and other weapons-usable material, will be moved over a distance of 2,500km, but the exact route and mode of transportation have not been determined. 66

The Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency reported on 28 August 1998 that work to prepare for the decommissioning of the aging BN-350 reactor at Aktau has begun. 67 More than 3MT of nuclear waste, which includes plutonium and other weapons-usable material, will begin transport from the reactor to the burial site at Semipalatinsk in November 1998. 68

The Office of Arms Control and Nonproliferation of the United States Department of Energy will spend $10 million in FY 1998 (plus $2 million from the State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund), and has asked for budget authority to spend $15 million in FY 1999, for the containment and interim storage of spent breeder blanket fuel from the BN-350 reactor at Aktau. The spent fuel, now stored at the Aktau site, will be transported to the Semipalatinsk complex for long-term storage under IAEA safeguards. The blanket fuel management program comes under the agenda of the US-Kazakhstan Joint Commission set up by US Vice President Albert Gore and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Talks have reportedly been held with potential vendors of casks for spent fuel storage, including the German firms GNB, GNS, and Nukem, though GNB’s potential role in the project was linked to pending commitments by the German government to provide additional financing. Kazakhstani Minister of Science Vladimir Shkolnik said that the infrastructure for spent fuel storage at Semipalatinsk would cost an estimated $20 million. 69

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has provided nondestructive assay techniques and systems to upgrade material protection, control, and accounting (MPC&A) at the BN-350 fast breeder reactor at Aktau. The Aktau plant has received approximately 75 percent of a monitoring system designed to sense radiation from and track the movement of nuclear material. Complete installation and comprehensive follow-up will be required to fully optimize the system. The BN-350 reactor has received gamma-ray measurement systems, and staff have received initial training on these systems. The design for a neutron assay system for spent fuel from BN-350 is underway at Los Alamos National Laboratory and should be installed by summer 1998. The new systems require calibration materials, which will be provided by New Brunswick Laboratory after Kazakhstani regulatory approval. 70

The Mazhilis (lower chamber of the Kazakhstani parliament) approved the draft law On the Use of Atomic Energy. The draft law, presented by Kazakhstani Minister of Science and President of the Academy of Sciences Vladimir Shkolnik stipulates the responsibilities of state bodies in the use of nuclear energy, provisions for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and regulations for the storage and processing of nuclear waste. The draft allows for any form of private ownership of nuclear power generating facilities and proposes to conduct state regulation of the use of nuclear energy by introducing a licensing system; this last proposal caused parliamentary debates. Some deputies felt that abolishing the former state monopoly over nuclear energy facilities and transferring them to private ownership will endanger their safety. 71

The average load factor of the BN-350 FBR in Aktau for electricity generation over a 12-month period until the end of 3/96 was 4.1 percent. The lifetime load factor from the first grid connection (7/16/73) to the end of 3/96 was 23.7 percent. In 1995, the BN-350 provided 800,000 MWh of electricity, equivalent to a nuclear share of 0.13 percent with an average load factor of 20 percent. 72

An international conference was held in Aktau concerning the development of nuclear energy in Kazakhstan. The organizational committee of the conference in Aktau was headed by Kazakhstani Minister of Science and President of the Academy of Sciences Vladimir Shkolnik, and President of Russia’s Kurchatov Institute Yevgeniy Velikhov. The Kazakhstani government invited representatives of large international manufacturers of nuclear reactors, hoping to attract them to bid on the construction of a new nuclear plant in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstani officials expect the US firm General Atomics, along with companies from Canada and France, to be the leading contenders in the contract bidding process. In addition to the plan to build a nuclear reactor at the former Semipalatinsk military site, the government is considering constructing a two-unit plant in Southern Kazakhstan by the year 2010 and replacing the aging BN-350 FBR in Aktau with a Russian BNM-170 modular fast reactor by the year 2005. In addition, projects for nuclear heat plants are being considered for Western Kazakhstan and the cities of Karaganda, Petropavlovsk, and Leninsk. A Russian-design VVER-640 reactor is one option for a future reactor. However, local experts have expressed interest in a Canadian CANDU reactor (Canadian-Deuterium Uranium heavy water reactor) because of its safety standards as well as its use of unenriched uranium. Total nuclear generation capacity by the year 2030 is planned at about 4-5 GW. 73

The IAEA conducted a seminar on the International Nuclear Events Scale (INES) at the Kazakhstani Atomic Energy Agency during June 1996. INES is used for reporting accidents at civilian atomic energy facilities and during the transportation of radioactive materials. Kazakhstan, as a member of the IAEA, joined the INES scale in 1995. 74

It was reported that delegates from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine approved a plan for cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy during their meeting in Minsk. The plan covers nuclear power development, spent fuel and radioactive waste management, the fuel cycle, safety assurance, and the use of radiation technologies in medicine and agriculture. 75

An IAEA technical group conducted a session on fast-neutron reactors in Aktau during May 1996 at the invitation of the former Director of the Mangystau Atomic Energy Combine and now Akim (Head) of the Mangystau Oblast, Vyacheslav Levitin. 76

On 1/5/96, the BN-350 came back on-line after an eight month period of upgrading. Two minor events related to coolant pumps occurred shortly after bringing the reactor on-line. Both events measured at Level 0 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, since safety mechanisms were fully operable at all times. 77

An editorial prepared by professors Zhabaga Takibayev and Yuriy Cherepnin builds a case for the continued development of the Kazakhstani nuclear energy industry. The authors reiterate the short-sightedness of relying on coal as a source of energy and cite an increasing level of electric energy imports to support the need for a more forward-looking program of nuclear energy development. According to the authors, if Kazakhstan began seriously producing nuclear energy in 1996, by the year 2000 energy output would again reach 1993 levels. Another factor compounding the need for nuclear energy development is competition from abroad, especially from countries redoubling their efforts to enlarge nuclear energy output such as Russia and China. Failure to seize opportunities in nuclear energy may lead to domestic unemployment and the inability of the Kazakhstani energy industry to compete on the world market in the future. 78

Minatom researchers have modeled a 170 MW BNM-170 fast breeder reactor to replace the aging BN-350 reactor in Aktau. According to researchers, upgrading the BN-350 would likely increase the reactors life span only until 2003. Kazak officials also stated in summer 1995 that the construction of a new commercial reactor at Semipalatinsk is planned. 79

Zhenis Sadykov, Chairman of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk Problem-Solving Scientific Committee, stated that, “an alarming situation has arisen in Aktau.” According to Sadykov, the power station is at the end of its service life and its urgent modernization is essential. Otherwise, the city will be without water or, “there could be a nuclear explosion similar to Chernobyl.” 80

Source: “Kazakhstan’s BN-350 Hits Minor Roadblocks In Return To Power,” Nucleonics Week, 15 February 1996, p. 6.

Extended parliamentary hearings dedicated to the problems and the future of the nuclear scientific and industrial complex in the Republic of Kazakhstan were held on 31 January 1995. The heads of relevant ministries and departments were invited to the hearings. According to Vladimir Shkolnik, the Minister of Science and New Technologies, there are two ideas for the development of nuclear power in the Republic of Kazakhstan. One program plans to put 18-20 GW of nuclear capacity in operation by the year 2003, the other program envisages only 4-6 GW. Summing up the parliamentary hearings, participants agreed that it was necessary to create a single concept for the development of Kazakhstan’s nuclear power industry. 81

OMRI Daily Digest reported that leaking oil from a coolant pump caused a fire at the Aktau nuclear power station in late December, but the blaze was quickly extinguished, and no radiation was released. 82 The Kazakhstani Atomic Energy Agency (KAEA) later criticized erroneous mass-media reports about the accident, calling them “distortion and conjecture from the facts.” According to the KAEA, during a planned shut-down of the reactor, checks were being carried out following the fitting of a new seal on the pump when a small pipe connecting a pressure gauge to one of the plant’s secondary circuit sodium pumps sprang a leak. There was brief concern about the possibility of fire due to a leak of hot oil near a sodium pump. Firemen were alerted, but no fire occurred. Because the reactor was shut down, no radiation was released, and the incident rated a zero on the International Nuclear Event Scale. 83

Kazakhstan did not attend an IAEA-sponsored nuclear safety convention in Vienna. More than eighty countries attended the conference and signed what critics have called an unenforceable agreement that technically requires countries to shut down unsafe and/or obsolete reactors. The only signatories from those new independent republics that have commercial reactors are Russia and Ukraine. Armenia and Lithuania, the two others besides Kazakhstan, also did not attend. The treaty will only come into force after 22 countries deposit instruments of ratification; 17 of which must operate commercial reactors. 84

It was reported on Moscow television that the BN-350 reactor has been shut down because the plant has run out of money to pay for fuel. The report also claims that President Nazarbayev is recommending halting subsidies to enterprises that are losing money, including by implication the Aktau nuclear plant. 85 86 Dr. Vladimir Shkolnik, Director General of the AEA RK, said these reports are inaccurate, and that the BN-350 has been shut down for routine maintenance. Dr. Shkolnik also said that the fuel cycle debt problem with Russia was solved by the 24 March 1994 agreements signed by Russia and Kazakhstan. 87 The apparent lack of funds means that the plant is unable to pay for fuel, customs duties, or transport charges, while plant managers report that nearly one quarter of the staff has left due to the lack of money for their wages. 88

A Kazakhstani delegate to a conference of nuclear scientists and engineers at Obninsk, Russia, stated that Kazakhstan would be ready to put a new, large-scale reactor into operation by the year 2005. 89

According to a Kazakhstani governmental report, 15 million tenge have been set aside for a project on replacing the aging FBR at Aktau with a newer model FBR. Russian and Kazakhstani specialists have yet to agree on a design of the new reactor. 90

Interruptions in the flow of payments between Kazakhstan and Russia are threatening the operation of the FBR at Aktau, according to an open letter submitted to the presidents of both countries by personnel of the nuclear plant. Urgent aid is requested to prevent a shutdown of the plant, which would have a paralyzing effect on industry and cities on the Mangyshlak peninsula. According to this report, there are no plans in place for the safe shutdown of the reactor. 91

Russia’s Minatom has offered to work with the KAEA on ways to prolong the life of the BN-350 for up to ten years, and to replace it with an advanced FBR design, the Module Breeder Reactor BMN-170. Minatom suggests that this new design could use much of the existing BN-350’s equipment and would adequately replace its generating capacity. 92 93 94

Russian nuclear officials have proposed the creation of an “integrated fast reactor complex” at Aktau, to include a reprocessing facility. Kazakhstan, however, does not want Aktau to become a center for disposal of the plutonium from ex-Soviet weapons. 95

The nuclear reactor at Aktau has experienced severe financial and personnel problems. There are reports of an exodus of Russian specialists from the plant and of difficulties in obtaining fuel due to the plant’s failure to pay for prior deliveries. These problems pose safety risks and could necessitate closure of the plant. 96


Nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor: A vessel in which nuclear fission may be sustained and controlled in a chain nuclear reaction. The varieties are many, but all incorporate certain features, including: fissionable or fissile fuel; a moderating material (unless the reactor is operated on fast neutrons); a reflector to conserve escaping neutrons; provisions of removal of heat; measuring and controlling instruments; and protective devices.
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
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.
Safeguards: A system of accounting, containment, surveillance, and inspections aimed at verifying that states are in compliance with their treaty obligations concerning the supply, manufacture, and use of civil nuclear materials. The term frequently refers to the safeguards systems maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in all nuclear facilities in non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT. IAEA safeguards aim to detect the diversion of a significant quantity of nuclear material in a timely manner. However, the term can also refer to, for example, a bilateral agreement between a supplier state and an importer state on the use of a certain nuclear technology.

See entries for Full-scope safeguards, information-driven safeguards, Information Circular 66, and Information Circular 153.
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel: Irradiated nuclear fuel. Once irradiated, nuclear fuel is highly radioactive and extremely physically hot, necessitating special remote handling. Fuel is considered “self protecting” if it is sufficiently radioactive that those who might seek to divert it would not be able to handle it directly without suffering acute radiation exposure.
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.
Radioactive waste
Radioactive waste: Materials which are radioactive and for which there is no further use.


  1. “MPC&A Aspects of the BN-350 Nuclear Material Disposition Joint Action Team (JAT) Study,” Partnership for Nuclear Security: United States/ Former Soviet Union Program of Cooperation on Nuclear Material Protection, Control, and Accounting, US Department of Energy, September 1998. Originally available on the DOE website, www.dp.doe.gov.
  2. A. Yu. Gagarinski, “Can Kazakhstan capitalise on its assets?” Nuclear Engineering International, December 1996, pp. 18-19.
  3. “Kazakhstan: BN-350 breeder shut permanently,” Nucleonics Week, 24 June 1999, p. 16.
  4. Laurie Howles, “Load Factors to End March 1996,” Nuclear Engineering, August 1996, pp. 12-13; See Fedor Ignatov, ITAR-TASS, 19 April 1993; in JPRS-TND-93-015, “Kazakhstan: Nuclear Reactor Shutdown Threatens Mangyshlak Peninsula,” 28 May 1993, p. 28; A. Yu. Gagarinski, “Can Kazakhstan capitalise on its assets?” Nuclear Engineering International, December 1996, pp. 18-19.
  5. Juergen Kupitz, “Nuclear energy for seawater desalinization: Updating the record,” IAEA Bulletin, www.iaea.or.at.
  6. A. Yu. Gagarinski, “Can Kazakhstan capitalise on its assets?” Nuclear Engineering International, December 1996, pp. 18-19.
  7. World Nuclear Generating Capacity, Nukem, November 1996, p. 27.
  8. “World Nuclear Industry Handbook 1992,” Nuclear Engineering International, p. 58.
  9. See William C. Potter, “An Overview of The Nuclear Potential of Select Non-Russian Soviet Successor States,” unpublished paper presented to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 20 August 1992, p. 2.
  10. V. Shmelev, “Estimation of The Quantities of Nuclear Materials at the Facilities in the New Independent States.”
  11. A. Yu. Gagarinski, “Can Kazakhstan capitalise on its assets?” Nuclear Engineering International, December 1996, pp. 18-19.
  12. US Department of Energy, “MPC&A Aspects of the BN-350 Nuclear Material Disposition Joint Action Team (JAT) Study,” Partnership for Nuclear Security: United States/ Former Soviet Union Program of Cooperation on Nuclear Material Protection, Control, and Accounting, US Department of Energy, September 1998. Originally available on the DOE website, http://www.dp.doe.gov.
  13. “Kazakhstan Today,” 26 October 2006, www.gazeta.kz.
  14. Emily Ewell, “International Conference on Nonproliferation Problems,” NISNP trip report, September 1997, KAZ970900, p. 9.
  15. Nuexco Review, 1994, p. 50.
  16. “Kazakhstan,” Nuclear Europe Worldscan, July-August 1995, p. 66.
  17. Albert Eras et al., “Department of Energy Nuclear Material Protection, Control, and Accounting Program at the Mangyshlak Atomic Energy Complex, Aktau, Republic of Kazakhstan,” in Partnership For Nuclear Security: United States/Former Soviet Union Program of Cooperation on Nuclear Material Protection, Control, and Accounting (Washington, DC: Department of Energy, September 1998), pp. 249-254.
  18. CNS staff discussions with Kazakhstani nuclear officials, fall 1999, KAZ990900.
  19. “Safeguards Aspects of the Conditioning and Transfer of Irradiated Fuel in a Fast Breeder Reactor in Kazakhstan,” U.S. Department of Energy, www.energy.gov.
  20. “MPC&A Aspects of the BN-350 Nuclear Material Disposition Joint Action Team (JAT) Study,” Partnership for Nuclear Security: United States/ Former Soviet Union Program of Cooperation on Nuclear Material Protection, Control, and Accounting, US Department of Energy, September 1998. Originally available on www.dp.doe.gov.
  21. “U.S. Secretary Richardson Highlights Strong U.S.-Kazakhstan Economic Relationship: Expands Energy Cooperation; Announces Non-Proliferation Progress,” US Department of Energy News, US DOE, www.energy.gov, 29 August 2000.
  22. Interfax-Kazakhstan, 22 September 2000; in “Kazakhstan searching for nuclear burial site as fast breeder reactor,” FBIS Document CEP20000926000006.
  23. “Argonne, other DOE labs team up to protect former Soviet nuclear materials,” Argonne National Laboratory, http://www.anl.gov.
  24. “Argonne, other DOE labs team up to protect former Soviet nuclear materials,” Argonne National Laboratory, http://www.anl.gov.
  25. “Commercial Overview of Kazakhstan: Appendix D—Selected Large or Recent U.S. Projects,” Department of Commerce, www.bisnis.doc.gov.
  26. “Argonne, other DOE labs team up to protect former Soviet nuclear materials,” Argonne National Laboratory, http://www.anl.gov.
  27. Emily Ewell Daughtry and Fred L. Wehling, “Cooperative Efforts to Secure Fissile Material in the NIS,” The Nonproliferation Review, Spring 2000, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 102.
  28. Emily Ewell Daughtry and Fred L. Wehling, “Cooperative Efforts to Secure Fissile Material in the NIS,” The Nonproliferation Review, Spring 2000, Vol. 7, No. 1, p. 102.
  29. “Arms Control and Nonproliferation,” Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Executive Budget Summary FY 2001, DOE Chief Financial Officer, www.cfo.doe.gov, p. 48.
  30. Interfax-Kazakhstan, 22 September 2000; in “Kazakhstan searching for nuclear burial site as fast breeder reactor,” FBIS Document CEP20000926000006.
  31. “DOE increases request for GTRI; some say larger boost needed,” NuclearFuel, 12 February 2007, p. 6.
  32. “Government of Kazakhstan and NTI Mark Success of HEU Blend-down Project; Material Could Have Been Used to Make up to Two Dozen Nuclear Bombs,” NTI press release, 8 October 2005.
  33. Burt Herman, Bakhila Bukharbayeva, “AP Enterprise: US-Kazakh talks on leftover plutonium stall; some see risk,” Associated Press, 29 August 2004; Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, www.lexis-nexis.com.
  34. Richard Stone, “Save Haven for a Breeder’s Plutonium Hoard,” Science, Vol.300, 23 May 2003, pg. 1224.
  35. Interfax, 30 April 2003; BBC Worldwide Monitoring; in “Kazakhstan’s only atomic plant sold for less than 1m dollars,” Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, http://web.lexis-nexis.com.
  36. Kazakhstan Today; in “The Concept of Further Development Will Be Elaborated at MAEC-Kazatomprom LLC - Kazakhstan Today,” 6 May 2003, National Atomic Energy Company KazAtomProm, www.katatomprom.kz/eng.
  37. “Kazakhstan v marte predstavit v MAGATE plan vyvoda iz stroya atomnogo reaktora,” Interfax, 11 February 2003.
  38. “V Kazakhstane priznan bankrotom atomnyy energokombinat,” Interfax, 17 January 2003.
  39. “Move underway to declare Kazakhstan’s only nuclear power plant bankrupt,” Interfax, 5 January 2003; FBIS Document CEP20030105000144.
  40. “V Kazakhstane bankrotyat yedinstvennyy v strane atomnyy energeticheskiy kombinat,” Interfax, 5 January 2003.
  41. “‘Kazatomprom’ yavlyayetsya naiboleye veroyatnym pretendentom na pokupku MAEK,” Interfax, 5 January 2003.
  42. “V Kazakhstane priznan bankrotom atomnyy energokombinat,” Interfax, 17 January 2003.
  43. “Move underway to declare Kazakhstan’s only nuclear power plant bankrupt,” Interfax, 5 January 2003; FBIS Document CEP20030105000144.
  44. “V Kazakhstane priznan bankrotom atomnyy energokombinat,” Interfax, 17 January 2003.
  45. “Kazakhstani nuclear reactor to be closed off by June 2003,” Interfax-Kazakhstan, 10 April 2002 in FBIS Document CEP20020410000251.
  46. Nikola Krastev, “Kazakhstan: Experts Report Progress on Safeguarding Nuclear Site,” RFE/RL, 12 December 2001; in RANSAC Nuclear News, 14 December 2001, www.ransac.org.
  47. “Atomnaya energiya: bolshaya peresmenka,” Kazakhstanskaya pravda, 19 October 2001, www.kazpravda.kz.
  48. “All spent fuel removed from nuclear reactor in eastern Kazakhstan,” Interfax, 12 July 2001 in FBIS Document CEP20010713000295.
  49. “Kazakhstan. Zakhoroneniye OYaT reaktora BN-350 oboydetsya v 20-40 mln dollarov,” Byulleten po Atomnoy Energetike, July 2001, Interfax, 6 June 2001.
  50. US Department of Energy, “Budget Highlights: Fiscal Year 2002 Budget Request,” Department of Energy, www.energy.gov, p. 50.
  51. Boris Kuzmenko, “Pervaya polosa. Yadernoye serdtse Mangyshlaka ostanovitsya,” Vremya MN, No. 203, 29 November 2000; in Eastview Publications Online Databases of Russian Publications, http://news.mosinfo.ru.
  52. “Kazakhstan to Store Spent Nuclear Fuel from BN-350 Reactor at Semipalatinsk Range,” Interfax, 24 November 2000.
  53. “U.S. Secretary Richardson Highlights Strong U.S.-Kazakhstan Economic Relationship: Expands Energy Cooperation; Announces Non-Proliferation Progress,” US Department of Energy News, U.S. DOE, www.energy.gov, 29 August 2000.
  54. Matthew Bunn, “The Next Wave: Urgently Needed New Steps to Control Warheads and Fissile Material,” (Washington DC and Cambridge, MA: The Carnegie Non-Proliferation Project and the Harvard Project on Managing the Atom, March 2000), p. 39.
  55. William Hoehn, “Department of Energy FY2001 Budget Requests in the Expanded Threat Reduction Initiative,” The Clinton Administration’s Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Requests for Nuclear Security Cooperation with Russia, www.ransac.org.
  56. Khabar TV broadcast, Almaty, 28 February 2000; in “Unloading Fuel Begins at Kazakh Nuclear Power Plant,” FBIS Central Asia Monitoring Unit, 28 February 2000.
  57. “Plan po vyvedeniyu iz ekspluatatsii yadernogo reaktora BN-350 budet razrabotan k sentyabryu,” Panorama, 4 February 2000, p.10.
  58. “V Astane obsuzhdayutsya voprosy kazakhstansko-amerikanskogo partnerstva programmy SUU,” Vremya PO, www.globe.kz, No. 6, 28 January 2000, p. 1.
  59. Nadezhda Shashkova, “Kogda doveriye nuzhneye deneg,” Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, www.kazpravda.kz, No. 26, 1 February 2000, p. 2.
  60. “Kazakhstan Reactor D&D plan OK’d by Bilateral Commission,” Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor, 10 January 2000, p. 6.
  61. Khabar TV broadcast, Almaty, 12 June 1999; in “Kazakhs start mothballing nuclear power station in west,” BBC Monitoring Central Asia Unit, 13 June 1999.
  62. “Fast Breeder Closes,” Nuclear Engineering International, Vol. 44, No. 541, August 1999, p. 4.
  63. “Kazakhstan: BN-350 breeder shut permanently,” Nucleonics Week, 24 June 1999, p. 16.
  64. Mark Hibbs, “Kazakhs Decide Aktau Will Continue to Run as Breeder Till Shutdown,” Nucleonics Week, 15 October 1998, p. 9.
  65. Y. Hashimoto et al, “Support to the Physical Protection and Accountancy for Nuclear Materials in Kazakhstan.” Paper presented at the 2nd International Conference on Non-Proliferation Problems, Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, 14-17 September 1998.
  66. Mike Collet-White, “Kazakhs to Move Huge Nuclear Waste Stock,” Reuters, 11 September 1998; in Inquisit Agent Report, www.inquisit.com.
  67. “Ageing Kazakh Nuclear Reactor To Be Decommissioned,” BBC Central Asia, 29 August 1998; in Inquisit Agent Report, www.inquisit.com.
  68. Mike Collet-White, “Kazakhs to Move Huge Nuclear Waste Stock,” Reuters, 11 September 1998; in Inquisit Agent Report, www.inquisit.com.
  69. “U.S. will spend $27 million in FY-98, FY-99 to manage BN-350 plutonium,” NuclearFuel, 9 February 1998, pp. 4-5.
  70. J.K. Sprinkle et al., “Application of Nondestructive Assay Techniques in Kazakhstan,” paper presented at the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management 38th Annual Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona, 20-24 July 1997.
  71. Tatyana Abramenko, “Odobrennyy mazhilisom zakonoproekt ‘Ob ispolzovanii atomnoy energii’ mozhet polozhit konets gosudarstvennoy monopolii v etoy oblasti,” Panorama, 24 January 1997, p. 3.
  72. Laurie Howles, “Load Factors to End March 1996,” Nuclear Engineering, August 1996, pp. 12-13; Nukem, November 1996, p. 27.
  73. Viktor Zhuravlev, “Shag k mezhdunarodnoy kooperatsii v mirnom ispolzovanii atoma,” Kazakhstanskaya pravda, 25 June 1996. <br />“Nuclear Power Conferences In June, October In Kazakhstan,” Post -Soviet Nuclear and Defense Monitor, 12 March 1996, p. 4.<br />Olga Kovalenko, “Bez atomnoy elektrostantsii Kazakhstanu ne oboytis,” Kazakhstanskaya pravda, 6 July 1996, p. 3.<br />Mikhail Ustiugov, “Kazakh Power Play,” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, July-August 1996, pp. 45-49.<br />A. Yu. Gagarinski, “Can Kazakhstan capitalise on its assets?” Nuclear Engineering International, December 1996, pp. 18-19.
  74. Panorama, “Na seminare v Agentstve po atomnoy energii sostoyalas prezentatsiya Mezhdunarodnoy shkaly yadernykh sobytiy,” No.24, 21 June 1996, p. 9.
  75. Nucnet, “CIS Accord on Nuclear Energy Links,” News No.277-80, 30 May 1996, p. 10.
  76. Raisa Dobraya, “Atomshchiki sobralis v Aktau,” Kazakhstanskaya pravda, 28 May 1996, p. 2.
  77. “Kazakhstan’s BN-350 Hits Minor Roadblocks in Return to Power,” Nucleonics Week, 15 February 1996, p. 6.
  78. Zhabaga Takibayev and Yuriy Cherepnin, “Atomic Energy and Economics of the Country,” Kazakhstanskaya pravda, 27 December 1995, p. 2.
  79. “Data Features: World Nuclear Generation Capacity 1993/94,” Nukem Market Report, December 1995, p. 35.
  80. FBIS-SOV-95-091, “Problem Committee Officer on Atomic Energy,” 6 May 1995.
  81. Panorama, 4 February 1995, p. 2; in “Parliament Considers Future of Nuclear Power,” FBIS-SOV-95-028, 4 February 1995.
  82. “Fire At Kazak Nuclear Power Plant,” OMRI Daily Digest, 3 February 1995.
  83. BBC Monitoring Summary of World Broadcast, 11 February 1995; in UI News Briefing, July 1995, p.2.<br />Nuclear News, March 1995, p.18, 51.
  84. Jan Kramar, “Over 80 Nations Adopt Nuclear Safety Convention,” Reuters, 17 June 1994.
  85. Ostankino Television, 28 June 1994; in “Fast-Breeder Rector Closed For Lack of Money,” FBIS-SOV-94-125, 29 June 1994, p. 54.
  86. Nuexco Review, 1994, p. 50.
  87. CISNP Interviews with Dr. Vladimir S. Shkolnik, Minister of Science and Technology, 19 August 1994 and 16 April 1994, Monterey, CA.
  88. “A Lack of Money Has Shut Down Kazakhstan’s BN-350,” Nuclear News, August 1994, p. 47.
  89. “Ukraine Protests Against West’s Calls for Chernobyl Shut-down,” ENS NucNet, 30 June 1994.
  90. ITAR-TASS, 6 April 1994; in JPRS-TND-94-010, “State Plans To Build Second Fast-Neutron Reactors,” 5 May 1994, p. 37.
  91. ITAR-TASS 4/5/94; in “Nuclear Plant Appeals to Nazarbayev, Yeltsin for Aid,” FBIS-SOV-94-066, 6 April 1994, p. 45.
  92. “Longer Life For Pioneer Fast Breeder In Kazakhstan?” ENS NucNet, 17 February 1994.
  93. Mark Hibbs, “Russian Industry Seeks Pact For Kazakhstan FBR Complex,” Nucleonics Week, 16 December 1994, pp. 14-15.
  94. Vladimir Shkolnik, Nuclear Europe Worldscan, July-august 1994, p. 57.
  95. Nucleonics Week, 16 December 1993, pp. 14-15.
  96. Fedor Ignatov, ITAR-TASS, 19 April 1993; in “Kazakhstan: Nuclear Reactor Shutdown Threatens Mangyshlak Peninsula,” JPRS-TND-93-015, 28 May 1993, p. 28.


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