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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 536-95
October 03, 1995

U.S.- KAZAKSTAN AGREEMENT TO SEAL UP WORLD'S LARGEST NUCLEAR TEST TUNNELCOMPLEX

The Defense Department announced today the signing of a Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) agreement with the Republic of Kazakstan that would permanently close and seal the former Soviet Union's Degelen Mountain nuclear test tunnel complex at the Semipalatinsk site. It is the largest such complex in the world.

The agreement, one in a series of agreements on cooperative threat reduction with four successor states of the Soviet Union (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakstan), is an important step in strengthening the recently renewed 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty to which Kazakstan has also acceded. It also serves to reinforce long-standing U.S. efforts to promote acceptance of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

The former Soviet Union conducted underground nuclear tests at the Degelen Mountain Complex from 1961 to 1989. The U.S.-Kazakstan cooperative project will demilitarize the complex using environmentally sound methods to close and seal permanently its tunnels. By foreclosing future use of the complex, this project will have a positive impact on our broader efforts to enhance U.S. national security as well as international security in the post-Cold War era.

As part of a Congressionally funded program for nuclear infrastructure elimination, the project results from discussions starting in late 1994 between Kazakstan's Ministry of Science and New Technologies and the Department of Defense. The Defense Nuclear Agency will execute the project for the Department of Defense, in cooperation with the National Nuclear Center of Kazakstan.

The project will be implemented in two phases: the first, beginning this month, will assess the geological and radiological status of each tunnel and recommend appropriate sealing methods and schedules. The second will be the actual closures, targeted for completion by Fiscal Year 1999. The goal is to seal a minimum of 60 tunnels a year. So far, six million dollars in Fiscal Year 1995 CTR funding has been designated to cover the assessment phase and initial tunnel closures.

The Department of Defense is pleased to be engaged in this highly significant cooperative undertaking with the newly independent Republic of Kazakstan, and sees it as a symbol of both countries' commitment to leadership in promoting global nonproliferation policies.

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