KAZAKHSTAN: ENCOURAGING CIVILIAN NUCLEAR ENERGY, WITH SECURITY IN MIND
Astana, August 27: Wherever we
look in the world, there are dark clouds overhead. The global
economy remains fragile. Violent extremism is putting lives and stability at
risk. Old tensions and divisions between nuclear powers have been re-awakened.
divisions have again brought into sharp focus the terrible dangers that nuclear
weapons pose to our world’s survival. Despite recent welcome reductions in the
number of warheads, those that remain could destroy humanity many times over.
This threat has been made far worse by the active pursuit of weapons of mass
destruction by violent extremists who would not hesitate to cause unimaginable
death and destruction.
is against this sombre background that there have been, in recent weeks, two
powerful signs of hope.
agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme shows what can be achieved through
commitment and patient negotiation. Kazakhstan was proud to have contributed to
the historic agreement by hosting two rounds of talks between Iran and the P5+1
negotiators in 2013.
on this progress, this week will see the signing in Astana of the agreement to
establish the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Bank of Low Enriched Uranium
(LEU) in Kazakhstan. It is an historic step which will have a far-reaching
impact and underlines Kazakhstan’s strong commitment to peace and the
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
LEU Bank will serve as an assurance of supply mechanism of last resort in case
of disruption of the open market.
will allow states that use nuclear power stations and seek ways to ensure
reliable fuel supplies, to forego the expense of developing their own
enrichment capabilities, if they so choose. Of course, choosing either way of
developing atomic energy is a sovereign decision of a state, yet the IAEA LEU
Bank allows them an opportunity to save resources when implementing such
programmes. At the same time, the Bank will make it difficult for countries to
argue that they need indigenous uranium enrichment to assert their right to
peaceful nuclear energy. In turn, it will reduce mistrust between nations.
Fundamentally, it will prove a significant hurdle for those attempting to
proliferate nuclear weapons.
is a natural host for the Bank. We are the biggest producer of natural uranium.
But our people also know first-hand the devastation of nuclear weapons. Our
determination to work for a world free of nuclear weapons has defined our
nation and our place in the international community.
soon as Kazakhstan became independent, we voluntarily renounced the world’s fourth
biggest nuclear and missile arsenal. Even before independence, we took the
decision to shut down the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing site.
decisions were strongly backed by our citizens. They know, more than any other
population in peacetime, the catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons. The
radioactive fall-out from nearly 500 Soviet nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk
caused illness and death on a sickening scale. Hundreds of thousands of people
were ravaged by radiation, and the tests left huge areas of our land
contaminated, even today.
have worked tirelessly to prevent other countries suffering as we have.
Kazakhstan is a signatory to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has
campaigned passionately for a universal ban on nuclear testing. We won the
support of the United Nations to commemorate the annual anniversary of the
closing of the Semipalatinsk site on August 29 as the International Day against
Nuclear Tests. And we have launched The ATOM Project, giving global citizens an
opportunity to urge their leaders to end nuclear testing permanently and ensure
the early entry into force of the CTBT.
have been active participants in all three Nuclear Security Summits to step up
global efforts against nuclear terrorism. But we remain convinced that the only
way to prevent the terrifying consequences of warheads being exploded, either
accidentally or deliberately, is a world free of nuclear weapons.
every opportunity, we have urged countries to turn their backs on nuclear
weapons and have used our own example to show that national security and
influence in the world are not dependent on their possession. We are proud to
have good relations with all our neighbours and all the major powers. They have
all given their support to the decision, at our initiative, for Central Asia to
declare itself a nuclear-weapons-free-zone.
while the agreement to set up the LEU Bank and the successful conclusion of the
talks over Iran’s nuclear ambitions are major steps in the right direction, we
must waste no time in building on this progress. We need to put the Iran
agreement into action. Those countries yet to sign and ratify the CTBT must do
so as soon as possible. The Non-Proliferation Treaty must itself be modernised
and expanded so all nations are covered by its obligations.
week’s ceremony in Astana will be attended by representatives of a number of
countries advancing the cause of non-proliferation and peaceful nuclear energy,
including Norway, the UAE, Kuwait, the EU and the US. It is a celebration of
what can be achieved with vision, commitment and good will. But it is the
beginning not the end. Only by relentlessly showing these same qualities can we
truly reduce the threat of nuclear weapons to all our lives and planet.
author is foreign minister of Kazakhstan.