A place where peaceful atom lives
The IAEA's Low-Enriched-Uranium Bank has opened in Kazakhstan this week. It will become a practical contribution to strengthening of non-proliferation regime, as well as ensuring guaranteed access of states that participated in Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to the benefits of peaceful atom. President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev handed symbolic keys to this bank, which is located in Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk, to the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.
As the adviser-envoy at the Kazakh Embassy in Moscow, Marat Syzdykov, explained, during 25 years of of independent development Kazakhstan managed to turn the nuclear test factor from national tragedy into its diplomatic advantage. During Soviet times, USSR used Kazakhstan as a platform for testing its weapons and nuclear program. In addition to Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, other facilities of nuclear industry and infrastructure were located on the territory of the country.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan had world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal. Nuclear and radioactive materials were inherited from the Soviet Union. All radioactive sources, which were previously used in industry, medicine and agriculture created additional problems.
After gaining independence, Kazakhstan decide to give up on its nuclear heritage, seeking complete nuclear disarmament, prevention of any nuclear tests and development of peaceful nuclear energy. In the 1990s, Kazakhstan signed several international treaties, passed a number of procedures to acquire the status of a nuclear-free state. By September of 1996, Kazakhstan almost achieved this goal. Since late 1990s, Kazakhstan began to develop nuclear industry for peaceful purposes. Right now Kazatomprom national company has become one of the world's leaders in production of uranium. It produces more than 24 thousand tons of uranium per year, which accounts for almost 40% of the world's uranium mining.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan still plans to develop of nuclear energy industry. Medium-term and long-term development plans include construction of a nuclear power plant.
Although other former Soviet republics also abandoned nuclear weapons that they inherited from the USSR, only Kazakhstan managed to use this to improve its reputation, making nuclear-free status a part of its international image. Kazakhstan's anti-nuclear initiatives play a significant role in this. August 29, the date when the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site was shut down, was declared the International Day Against Nuclear Tests.In addition, Kazakhstan initiated treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, declaration on building a world free of nuclear weapons, adoption of step-by-step plan of comprehensive reduction of strategic offensive arms including nuclear weapons under the auspices of the United Nations. Kazakh President also created initiative "World. XXI Century". The goal of all these initiatives is to make the world abandon nuclear weapons and nuclear tests.