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Lugar Applauds the Secure Storage of Spent Plutonium Fuel in Kazakhstan

U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar welcomed today’s announcement that the United States and Kazakhstan have completed a major nonproliferation program to provide secure storage for the spent fuel from Kazakhstan’s BN-350 plutonium production reactor.   In a large-scale effort over the last year, the spent fuel (enough material to fabricate 775 nuclear weapons) was transported in a series of 12 secure shipments over 1,800 miles, from Aktau near the Caspian Sea to a secure location in eastern Kazakhstan.  In addition to the contributions from hundreds of Kazakhstani and U.S. scientists, engineers, and safety, security and transportation experts, this program received substantial support from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation.

The United States and Kazakhstan have been cooperating closely on non-proliferation matters for over 17 years through the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which has safely eliminated and secured nuclear and biological weapons, materials, and infrastructure throughout the former Soviet Union.  The Nunn-Lugar Program has since been granted authority to implement threat reduction programs worldwide.

At the time of the collapse of the USSR in December 1991, Kazakhstan possessed 1,410 nuclear warheads.  On December 13, 1993, the Government of Kazakhstan signed the Safe and Secure Dismantlement Act and 5 Nunn-Lugar implementing agreements with the United States.  Upon the removal of the last nuclear warhead from Kazakhstan in 1995, Kazakhstan acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995 as a non-nuclear weapon state.  Other successes in Kazakhstan include the closure of the former Soviet Union’s nuclear test site, the elimination of a biological weapons production facility, and the securing of dangerous nuclear, biological, and radiological materials. 

The completion of this decade-long effort to secure the BN-350 spent fuel provides yet another example of the progress on nuclear security and non-proliferation through concerted U.S. diplomacy and global security engagement.

The Nunn-Lugar scorecard now totals 7,599 strategic nuclear warheads deactivated, 791 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) destroyed, 498 ICBM silos eliminated, 180 ICBM mobile launchers destroyed, 651 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) eliminated, 492 SLBM launchers eliminated, 32 nuclear submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles destroyed, 155 bomber eliminated, 906 nuclear air-to-surface missiles (ASMs) destroyed, 194 nuclear test tunnels eliminated, 493 nuclear weapons transport train shipments secured, upgraded security at 24 nuclear weapons storage sites, built and equipped 20 biological monitoring stations, and neutralized 1569.5 metric tons of Russian & Albanian chemical weapons agent. Perhaps most importantly, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus are nuclear weapons free as a result of cooperative efforts under the Nunn-Lugar program. Those countries were the third, fourth and eighth largest nuclear weapons powers in the world.