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Kazakhstan's Nuclear Breaches


Fuel pellets produced at the Ulba Metallurgical Works in Kazakhstan.

Fuel pellets produced at the Ulba Metallurgical Works in Kazakhstan.

Security at Kazakhstan’s nuclear facilities has improved in recent years, but the early years following its independence were marked by a series of smuggling incidents and mishaps. Below is a partial timeline of security breaches involving nuclear facilities in Kazakhstan.

September 24, 1992 -- Russian media report that Kazakh authorities have been unable to find a container of radioactive cesium-137 stolen from the Guriyev Oil refinery several days earlier.

October 20, 1992 -- Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry recovers the containers of cesium-137 stolen from the Gurev Oil refinery. No one was caught.

December 4, 1995 -- ITAR-TASS reports that radioactive waste is a major problem in Kazakhstan, which has produced 219 million tons since achieving independence in 1991.

April 4, 1996 -- BBC cites "Karavan Blitz" reports on thefts from the Ulba Metallurgical Works, saying that about 100 kilograms of uranium 235 were stolen in November, and another 150 kilograms of uranium and 400 kilograms of radioactive thorium were stolen in December.

May 7, 1996 -- "Obshchaya Gazeta" reports that two men were caught stealing more than 100 kilograms of uranium-235 from the Ulba plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk. The report states that authorities found 4 kilograms of uranium, one kilogram of thorium, and 10 kilograms of indium in a car leaving Ust-Kamenogorsk.

May 23, 1996 -- ITAR-TASS reports that Kazakhstan has denied selling radioactive material to China after a complaint was lodged when ferrous and non-ferrous material inspected at the Xinjiang border shows radioactivity. Kazakhstan said the material came from the Karaganda plant.

July 7, 1997 -- Thieves steal containers of beryllium dioxide, used in synthesizing the rare earth metal beryllium. They dump the contents, then sell the containers at a market in Ust-Kamenogorsk. ITAR-TASS reports that more than 100 kilograms of uranium fuel for nuclear power plants, thorium, indium, and thallium had been stolen from same facility.

June 6, 1998 -- Interfax reports that a Kazakh plane has been impounded in Ukraine after authorities found 40 tons of "unidentified" radioactive material aboard.

September 7, 1998 -- Turkish police catch eight men, three of them from Kazakhstan, trying to sell 4.5 kilograms of unprocessed uranium and six grams of plutonium, of unknown origin but said to be from a CIS country.

June 24, 1999 -- The Atyrau oil refinery reports the theft of a container of cesium and cobalt.

July 1, 1999 -- The lost container of cesium and cobalt is found. The Kauser company had bought it from an unknown seller.

June 30, 1999 -- ITAR-TASS reports that containers with two tons of radioactive material have been found on the outskirts of Almaty at the Kausat wine-making plant. The containers disappeared two months earlier from the Kazakh Institute of Atomic Energy.

August 1, 1999 -- A radioactive container is found at a mobile laboratory belonging to the Munai Ltd. Joint Stock Company.

September 1, 1999 -- Two containers with radioactive and chemical waste are found at a chemical waste dump outside Almaty.

February 1, 2000 -- Interfax reports that three men have been detained in Almaty for trying to sell uranium.

April 2, 2000 -- Uzbek border guards halt a truck coming from Kazakhstan with 10 containers of radioactive substances. The border guards say the truck was headed for Turkmenistan and Iran, then Quetta, Pakistan, where the firm Ahmad Khan Haji Muhhamad was to receive it. The truck was stopped on March 30 and held for two days before the announcement was made.

April 7, 2000 -- Kazakhstan rejects charges it was trying to ship radioactive material to Pakistan via Uzbekistan.

April 9, 2000 -- The Pakistani government denies any involvement with the radioactive containers seized on the Uzbek-Kazakh border in early March.

June 13, 2000 -- Interfax reports that a container labeled "Radioactive Cargo" was found on a playing field in the center of Almaty. Experts say the radiation levels around the container were within acceptable limits.

July 5, 2000 -- ITAR-TASS reports that police have caught a Russian national on board an Astana-St. Petersburg train carrying 90 kilograms of radioactive mercury.

July 7, 2000 -- ITAR-TASS reports that Kazakh KNB officers have seized 4 kilograms of tablets containing uranium from a group of criminals who were planning on smuggling them to Afghanistan. The press service of the Almaty police says the group is led by an ethnic Uzbek.

February 19, 2002 -- RFE/RL reports that a train loaded with radioactive material has returned to eastern Kazakhstan from the Chinese border.

March 11, 2002 -- Interfax reports that Kazakh secret services have uncovered an attempt to sell radioactive material from Uzbekistan. Two Uzbek citizens were detained in the Makhtaaral district in South Kazakhstan trying to sell 1.5 kilograms of radioactive material, said to be uranium oxide powder.

March 27, 2002 -- ITAR-TASS reports that four containers of radioactive material were found at the gates of the "Energetik-3" parking area in Ust-Kamensk.

April 15, 2002 -- John Schlosser, an official at the U.S. State Department's Non-Proliferation Bureau, tells an international conference on terrorism and non-proliferation in Tashkent that the United States will provide $30 million to Central Asian states in 2002 to fight trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and another $20 million to Uzbekistan to strengthen export controls. Schlosser says eight attempts to smuggle radioactive material across Central Asian borders have been stopped in the past year.

October 8, 2002 -- ITAR-TASS reports that Russian border guards have stopped a Kazakhstan-bound train and found tons of enriched uranium on board.

October 14, 2002 -- Twelve railroad cars carrying radioactive material arrive at the Druzhba-Alashankow checkpoint along the Kazakh-Chinese border.

November 7, 2002 -- South Korean daily newspaper “Seoul Segye Ilbo” reports that North Korea has bought uranium from Kazakhstan's Ulba Plant, and claims that Uyghur separatist transported the uranium to North Korea.

September 23, 2003 -- "Ekspress-K" reports that resident of Uralsk, Kazakhstan have been caught with container of uranium.

February 20, 2004 -- AP reports that Kazakhstan has opened an investigation into a Dubai-based company's office in Almaty and allegations that the company was involved in the nuclear black market.

November 20, 2004 -- Interfax reports that a radioactive source has been found at a vegetable storage facility in Saryagash in southern Kazakhstan.
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