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
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
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.