Building a Nuclear Weapons Free World:
The Kazakhstan Way

"We built a new non-nuclear history
for the country, laying the foundation
for a new narrative tradition
about how to rise above a world threat."

Nursultan Nazarbayev, Epicentre of Peace

The year of 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of President Nursultan Nazarbayev's decision to close down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site where the Soviet Union conducted more than 450 nuclear tests with the cumulative power output equal to 2,500 Hiroshima bombs.

Ignorant of the effects of the nuclear test fallout on the human body and the environment, hundreds of thousands of the people in Kazakhstan had been prisoners of the nuclear monster for more than 40 years. It is impossible to overestimate the deep impression of horror and concern which the four-decade-long devastation of a major part of Kazakhstan, inducing radiation sickness and environmental degradation, has brought about.

Today, Kazakhstan is at the leading front of global efforts to contain the nuclear dangers and bring closer the goal of a nuclear weapons free world. Our genuine dedication to the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament has not grown out of hopelessness and despair but out of our firm conviction that the proliferation of nuclear weapons can be stopped and, indeed, reversed.

This has been demonstrated by a series of bold and concrete steps Kazakhstan has taken, both before and after gaining the independence in 1991. They show the strong determination of our country to build a world free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The story of Kazakhstan's nuclear disarmament and contribution to non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction began in 1991 when President Nursultan Nazarbayev made the far-sighted decision to shut down the world's second largest nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk. After Kazakhstan regained its independence, President Nazarbayev went a step further and, in 1994 in partnership with the United States under the Nunn-Lugar programme, renounced the nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan, leading to decisions by Ukraine and Belarus to renounce such weapons located in those nations as well. At the time, Kazakhstan had in excess of 1,400 nuclear weapons on its territory, more than France's, Great Britain's and China's nuclear capabilities combined.

Since that time Kazakhstan has fully rid itself of nuclear weapons and their infrastructure. In partnership with the United States and Russia, and working closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Kazakhstan has also been implementing new specific projects to down-blend highly enriched uranium and ensure the safety of nuclear materials and facilities. While these activities continue, and there are new projects being planned, the story of Kazakhstan's contribution to strengthening the regime of non-proliferation does not end there.

In 2009, Kazakhstan and four other Central Asian nations created the first nuclear weapons free zone fully located in the northern hemisphere. In that same year, President Nazarbayev proposed Kazakhstan as a host country for a planned international nuclear fuel bank, to be set up under the IAEA auspices. And in that same year, Kazakhstan has urged the United Nations and has worked with other nations to proclaim a day devoted to striving for a nuclear weapons-free world. The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution designating August 29 – the day when the Semipalatinsk test site was shut down in 1991 – the International Day against Nuclear Tests and calling on all countries to mark this day henceforth.

In April 2010, President Nazarbayev, together with leaders of 47 nations and major international organizations, participated in the first Global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, outlining Kazakhstan's vision of new steps the mankind should take to bring the goal of a nuclear safe and a nuclear weapons free world closer.

More recently, in November 2010, in close cooperation with the United States and the IAEA, Kazakhstan has completed a large-scale 12-month project to ensure long-term secure storage for more than 10 metric tonnes of highly enriched uranium and three metric tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium from the BN-350 reactor in Aktau – enough material to make about 800 nuclear weapons. This has become another critical nuclear non-proliferation milestone and Kazakhstan's yet another important contribution to global security.

The Semipalatinsk nuclear monster is now silent, but the end of nuclear testing does not mean the end of its devastating consequences. It has left a legacy of misery for hundreds of thousands of people living there.

This book, dedicated to the global observance of August 29 as the International Day against Nuclear Tests, traces Kazakhstan's path to disarmament and peace, its struggle to prevent the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes but promote its use for the benefit of society.

And, along the way, it also seeks to explain the story of helping to build a world free from nuclear weapons, the Kazakhstan way.

Yerzhan Kazykhanov
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan
Astana, August 2011 .

Our Mission
  Nuclear Safe seeks to educate people about the tragedies of our nuclear past, enlighten them about what it takes to create a more secure future and encourage them to start an ongoing dialogue around the issue of nuclear safety.
Our Vision
  We envision a world that is nuclear safe for generations to come.
  "Every day, more and more people are viewing both nuclear tests and nuclear weapons as dangerous relics of the Cold War, long overdue for permanent retirement."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message on the International Day
against Nuclear Tests
29 August 2011

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©Copyright 2012 Kazakhstan Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and The Nazarbayev Center