(December 4, 1997) The Kazakh government has signed agreements with the US for IAEA-monitored on-site storage of spent fuel and for setting up nuclear test monitoring stations, and with Russia for the construction of a 1,900 MW nuclear power plant. The country has also agreed to shut down its only current reactor in 2003.
(482.4787) WISE Amsterdam -On November 18, the United States and Kazakhstan signed contracts for bilateral economic cooperation. In addition to expansion of non-military nuclear cooperation between the two countries, the contracts deal with US interests in the oil-rich Caspian sea region. The agreement will give the US greater control over safeguard levels for Kazakhstan`s nuclear energy industry. In effect, the US is concerned about the relatively small distance between Kazakhstan`s only nuclear power plant at Aktau (Shevchenko) and the Iranian border (some 320 km). The BN-350 plant is a breeder reactor --producing plutonium which, the US supposes, Iran needs to obtain to build nuclear weapons.
To reduce the proliferation risks, an accord between the two countries was signed regarding disposal of the spent nuclear fuel from the BN-350 breeder. A US statement said the joint program would secure, stabilize and store fuel assemblies currently in the reactor's core or its spent fuel store and "alleviate a significant proliferation risk". According to the agreement, the spent fuel will be stored on-site under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The project is expected to last several years and will cost the US $10 million in its first year.
Kazakhstan has also agreed to shut down the Aktau station in 2003. As the Interfax news agency reported on November 20, Russia, in a bilateral accord with Kazakhstan, has guaranteed its assistance for the construction of a new nuclear power station containing three reactors with a total capacity of 1,900 MW. A site has been chosen 400 km northeast of the capital Almaty. The work is currently expected to start in 1999, but that remains to be seen. In August the Kazakh government approved a plan to install 6 VVER-reactors by the year 2030. The country (formerly part of the Soviet Union) is heavily dependent on Russia and Uzbek for its energy supply and is deeply in debt to both countries as a result.
Other contracts on nuclear issues signed on November 18 with the US cover cooperation on preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and setting up nuclear test monitoring stations. Semipalatinsk in the northern part of the country was the site where most of Russia's nuclear testing took place and is severely contaminated as a result.
- Reuters, 18 & 19 November 1997
- UPI, 18 November 1997
- AFP, 20 November 1997
- Itar Tass, 5 August 1997
Contact: WISE Kalinigrad