Shortly after gaining independence in 1991, Kazakhstan voluntarily renounced what was the world’s fourth-largest nuclear weapons arsenal of more than 1,400 warheads. It closed the world’s second-largest nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk. In 1994, a joint US-Kazakhstan operation called Project Sapphire removed approximately 600 kilograms of weapons-grade enriched uranium from the Ulba Metallurgy Plant. In 2001, 2,900 kilograms of nuclear fuel (enriched up to 26% U-235) was removed from the Mangyshlak Atomic Energy facility and down-blended into usable forms of uranium for commercial and scientific use.
In 2009 Kazakhstan created a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia in association with four other countries in the region, and it initiated an action plan to strengthen nuclear safety, promote non-proliferation and prevent nuclear terrorism. Kazakhstan works actively to develop similar zones in other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East.
On May 6th 2014 at the UN headquarters in New York, representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5) – China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA – signed the Protocol to the Treaty on the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ). The signing of the Protocol is a significant step in the legal process of establishing the zone, whereby the “P5” nuclear powers provide guarantees not to use nuclear weapons against their fellow Treaty participants.
Kazakhstan recently hosted two crucial meetings in Almaty between the P5 countries and Iran concerning the latter’s nuclear programme. The Almaty talks paved the way for the Geneva talks and were unanimously considered to be the most successful in the history of the negotiating process.
In 2012, Kazakhstan launched the ATOM Project, an international campaign for peace, during the International Forum for a Nuclear-Free World in Astana.
Kazakhstan initiated a resolution to proclaim August 29th as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, adopted in 2009 by the 64th UN General Assembly.
Moreover, Kazakhstan proposed the adoption of the Universal Declaration of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World at the Global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC (2010) and Seoul (2012).
Kazakhstan is currently negotiating an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the country to host the first multinational low enriched uranium bank. This would begin to serve as a last-resort fuel reserve to assure a guaranteed supply of low enriched uranium for the nuclear power markets. Countries wanting to buy from the reserve would have to meet IAEA safeguards and refrain from operating uranium enrichment or spent-fuel reprocessing facilities.