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Last Updated: May, 2015


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]


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 tularemiaplague, 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).


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. [22] 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. [23] The CTR program completed the project in May 2002, having spent approximately $8.5 million. [24] 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. [25] 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. [26] Uzbekistan is a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), but is not a member of the Australia Group.


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. [27]

[1] M. D. Nordyke, "The Soviet Program for Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Explosions," 1 September 2000, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, pp. 34-35,
[2] Institute of Nuclear Physics, Academy of Science of Uzbekistan,
[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,
[4] National Nuclear Security Administration, "GTRI: Reducing Nuclear Threats," 1 February 2011,
[5] National Nuclear Security Administration, "Reactor Converted in Uzbekistan," 19 March 2008,; B. Yuldashev et al., "The Lessons Learned from Conversion of 10 MW Research Reactor to Low Enrichment Fuel," Transactions of the European Research Reactor Conference, Rome, Italy, 20-24 March 2011,
[6] "Secret Mission Airlifts Enriched Uranium from Uzbekistan," 13 September 2004,
[7] IAEA Staff Report, "Bombs Grade 'Spent' Nuclear Material Removed from Uzbekistan," International Atomic Energy Agency, 20 April 2006,; National Nuclear Security Administration, "Secret Mission to Remove Highly Enriched Uranium Spent Nuclear Fuel from Uzbekistan Successfully Completed," 20 April 2006,
[8] National Nuclear Security Administration, "NNSA Completes 50th Shipment Under Threat Reduction Program," 1 November 2012,
[9] Research Reactor Database, International Atomic Energy Agency, 2010,
[10] "Uranium in Central Asia," World Nuclear Association, May 2011,
[11] "Uranium Production," State Company Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combinat, 2 May 2011,
[12] "Uranium in Central Asia," World Nuclear Association, May 2011,
[13] Burkhard Conrad, "Regional (non-) Proliferation: The Case of Central Asia," Report distributed at the Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, April-May 2000.
[14] "United States Presents Radiation Detection and Other Equipment to the Agencies of the Government of Uzbekistan," 15 February 2005,; "Uzbek Security Officials Complete WMD Integrated Exercise Sponsored by the U.S. Embassy," U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan, 5 November 2004,; Vilor Niyazmatov, "Uzbekskiye pogranichniki i tamozhenniki poluchili v dar ot SShA bolee 146 avtomobiley-vnedorozhnikov," ITAR-TASS, 24 July 2003.
[15] Togzhan Kassenova, "Central Asia: Regional Security and WMD Proliferation Threats,"Disarmament Forum, Vol. 4, 2007, pp. 13-23,
[16] "Poisoned Island," The Economist, 8 July 1999,
[17] Jonathan Tucker, Shavkat Khamrakulov, and Alla Karimova, "Biological Decontamination of Vozrozhdeniye Island: The U.S.-Uzbek Agreement," Briefing Series Hosted by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies Branch Office, Washington DC, 18 January 2002.
[18] Jonathan Tucker, Shavkat Khamrakulov, and Alla Karimova, "Biological Decontamination of Vozrozhdeniye Island: The U.S.-Uzbek Agreement," Briefing Series Hosted by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies Branch Office, Washington DC, 18 January 2002.
[19] Philipp Bleek, "U.S. to Clean Up Soviet-Era Germ Warfare Site in Uzbekistan," Arms Control Today, November 2001,
[20] "New Regional Diagnostic Laboratories Open in Andijan, Ferghana," Embassy of the United States in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 25 March 2011,
[21] Michelle Stem Cook and Amy F. Woolf , "Preventing Proliferation of Biological Weapons: U.S. Assistance to the Former Soviet States," Congressional Research Service, 10 April 2002,
[22] "U.S. and Uzbeks Agree on Chemical Arms Plant Cleanup," The New York Times, 25 May 1999,
[23] Jim Nichol, "Central Asia's Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests," Congressional Research Service, 11 March 2010,
[24] Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, "Annex A: Assessments of Progress in Meeting the Standards of Section 498A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961- Uzbekistan," January 2006, U.S. Department of State,; U.S. Department of Defense, "Cooperative Threat Reduction Annual Report to Congress Fiscal Year 2005: Information Cutoff Date: January 2004," p. 100,
[25] "Nerve Gas Found at U.S. Base," BBC News World Edition, 9 June 2002,
[26] Togzhan Kassenova, "Central Asia: Regional Security and WMD Proliferation Threats,"Disarmament Forum, no. 4, 2007, p. 18,;
[27] Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, "Treaty between The United States of America and The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on The Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty)," U.S. Department of State,

Get the Facts on Uzbekistan
  • The U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction program funded efforts to secure and decontaminate the Soviet era Chemical Research Institute
  • Holds over 100,000 tons of known recoverable uranium ore on its territory
  • Home to the largest Soviet bio-weapon field-testing facility at Vozrozhdeniye Island

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.