Kazakhstan not a nuclear threat, official says

A US intelligence report on concerns about Kazakhstan's nuclear deals is misleading, said the Kazakh government Monday.

By , Staff writer

A Kazakhstan government official says that, contrary to recent reports, his country is not looking to do nuclear deals with countries that have a mixed record on proliferation.

Roman Vassilenko, chairman of the Committee for International Information at Kazakhstan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says that his country does see itself as a potential nuclear power – but a "peaceful and responsible" one that has no interest in nuclear weapons or nuclear commerce with potential proliferators.

On October 15, The Christian Science Monitor published an article on a US intelligence report that expressed concerns about the geopolitical implications of some of Kazakhstan's nuclear deals.

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Both the article and the report "seem utterly misleading", says Mr. Vassilenko.

Kazakhstan, formerly part of the Soviet Union, returned 1,000 nuclear weapons soil to Russia following the dissolution of the USSR. It shut down a former weapons test site where the Soviets detonated 650 nuclear bombs, points out Mr. Vassilenko in an e-mailed response.

"Kazakhstan has clearly seen enough of nuclear horrors to be firmly committed to peaceful nuclear energy," he says.

Under a US government covert operation named "Project Sapphire," Kazakhstan handed over half a ton of weapons-grade uranium to the US, for down-blending it into a form useful for civilian purposes.

Kazakhstan is "politically stable" and "dynamically developing", says Vassilenko. It is indeed planning to build more nuclear power plants, but all will be fully under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, he adds.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has offered to host an international nuclear fuel bank under IAEA auspices – an offer the US has officially welcomed.

"If all that is not a vote of confidence, then I don't know what is," says Vassilenko.

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