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Spent Fuel Storage Sites

  • Location
    At the Baykal-1 reactor complex of the former Semipalatinsk testing ground
  • Type
  • Facility Status

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Built for high-activity waste and reportedly meets international standards, the Spent Fuel Storage Sites have been reconstructed for the accommodation of sealed radioactive sources.

Spent, sealed radioactive sources from Kazakhstan were sent to Russia for storage until the Russian Constitution forbade the import of foreign radioactive waste. According to Director General of the Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Agency Timur Zhantikin, another possible location for radioactive waste storage is a site near Stepnogorsk, which was reportedly 70 percent complete in 1996. 1

Other sites devoted to the storage of spent fuel are located near the reactors. One is operated by the Mangyshlak Atomic Energy Combine (which accumulated more than one MT of plutonium in 1996, due to the activity of the Aktau nuclear reactor); two others belong to the Institute of Nuclear Physics, which built them at the beginning of the 1960s near Almaty. The Ulba metallurgical plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk also operates a storage facility for low activity waste located near the city. 2

Under the 31 December 1992 decree of the Kazakhstani Cabinet of Ministers on Urgent Measures to Improve the Radiation Situation in the Republic of Kazakhstan, a program was adopted to create a state system for collecting, processing, transporting, and disposing of radioactive waste. Within the framework of this program, a registry of locations with radioactive waste on the republic’s territory was prepared. According to official sources, there are more than 230 million tons of radioactive waste in Kazakhstan, with a total activity of more than 13 million Ci. The main sources of radioactive waste in Kazakhstan are the following: nuclear explosions (12 million tons at 13 million Ci); uranium mining, milling, and processing facilities and nuclear reactors (218-225 million tons of low-activity waste totaling 230,000 Ci and 1.17 million tons of medium-activity waste totaling 57,600 Ci); and industries using radioactive isotope products (100,000 irradiation capsules in use, of which 20,000, with a total activity of 80,000 Ci, require disposal). This waste is stored in 529 different locations as follows: 127 sites at uranium mining and processing facilities; 76 at uranium ore milling and processing enterprises; 16 at the locations of past nuclear explosions; five at nuclear facilities; and 301 at plants using sealed radiation source products. Kayrolla Yerezhepov, vice-president of KATEP, indicated in 1995 that Kazakhstan did not have an integrated system for dealing with radioactive waste, raising serious environmental concerns. 3

Additional sources of radioactive contamination in Kazakhstan include traces from the Chornobyl and Mayak nuclear accidents. According to Viktor Slavgorodskiy, vice-president of the enterprise Kazizotop, the Chornobyl nuclear accident caused a considerable increase in the global fallout of cesium-137 in Kazakhstan in 1986. The influence of the Mayak nuclear accident in 1957 is unclear due to the absence of records in Kazakhstan at that time. Nuclear tests at the Chinese site Lop-Nor influenced East-Kazakhstan, Taldykorgan, Almaty, Semipalatinsk, and Zhezkazgan oblasts; however, there has been no systematic observation of contamination levels resulting from the Lop-Nor activities. 4

Commissioned in 1995, the spent fuel storage site at the Baykal-1 reactor complex, which is located on of the former Semipalatinsk testing ground, is the only such site operating in Kazakhstan, and can safely store radioactive waste for a period up to 50 years. 5


  1. “Pri vybore reaktora my budem rukovodstvovatsya dvumya printsipami: bezopasnostyu i ekonomichnostyu,” Kazakhstanskaya pravda, 15 May 1996.
  2. CISNP discussions with senior Kazakhstani nuclear officials, May 1995. Yekaterina Latypova, “MNTTS i Natsionalnyy yadernyy tsentr Kazakhstana proveli seminar po mezhdunarodnomu sotrudnichestvu v oblasti konversii,” Panorama, 25 October 1996, p. 2.
  3. “Radiation Situation on the Territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” Aziya-Ezh, No. 47, November 1996, p. 23; “Kazakhstan: Results of Radioactive Contamination Study,” FBIS-SOV-96-252-S.Report done for CISNP, Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Agency, 7 July 1995. Yaroslav Razumov, “Sostavlena karta radioaktivnogo zagryazneniya Kazakhstana,” Panorama, No. 9, 8 March 1996, p. 7; “Radioactive Waste in the Republic of Kazakhstan,” presentation paper to the Waste Management ‘95 Symposium, 26 February - 2 March 1995, Tucson, AZ; “Yerezhepov on Burial of Radioactive Waste,” Panorama, 2 September 1995; FBIS-SOV-95-174, 2.
  4. Yaroslav Razumov, “Sostavlena karta radioaktivnogo zagryazneniya Kazakhstana,” Panorama, No. 9, 8 March 1996, p. 7.
  5. “Материаловедческий комплекс” [Material Science Complex], The Institute of Atomic Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, www.iae.kz.


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