Kazakh Attitudes towards Nuclear Energy

Daniar Imanbayev
May 29, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Kazakhstan in its region. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite being one of the three largest producers of uranium in the world, the nation of Kazakhstan (Fig. 1) unfortunately has a very tragic history and unfavorable opinion on nuclear energy. [1] Kazakhstan has had many close encounters with Nuclear weapons, since one of the primary Nuclear test sites of the USSR was located in East Kazakhstan. Many Kazakh residents have been personally affected by the dangerous proximity of the nuclear test sites in forms of cancer and genetic mutations, such that there remains a pension for survivors affected by the test sites to this day. Towns even hundreds of miles away such as Ust-Kamenogorsk are affected and require the pension, decades after.

Kazakhstan's history with Nuclear energy began with with the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991. With 1,410 nuclear warheads remaining in Kazakhstan at that time, the Kazakh government was pressured by the U.S. and Russia to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and subsequently transferred all of its nuclear warheads to Russia. Shortly after, the government continued to eliminate nuclear facilities and dismantled the nuclear testing system at Semipalatinsk in 2000. [2]

Current Perspectives

Despite the tragic consequences of the misuse of nuclear energy in Kazakhstan's past, the nation is beginning to warm up to the idea of using nuclear energy once more.

The US and Kazakhstan have decided to cooperate particularly in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, sustainability programs, CO2 containment, and joint security operations against nuclear weapons. The most prominent of these operations is the seventeen-year project undertaken jointly by scientists in the U.S. and Russia: the cleaning up of a defunct Kazakh nuclear test facility. By cleansing the area of high-purity plutonium, the $150 million project would ensure that the material does not end up in the hands of the states' mutual enemies. [3]

Furthermore, recent developments in Kazakhstans Institute of Nuclear Physics has been received positively from the government. With the cooperation of Canadian Cameco Corporation, Kazakh Kazatomprom had planned to start the operation of a uranium hexafluoride conversion plant by 2014. [4] It is still in progress to this day.

© Daniar Imanbayev. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for non-commercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] M. Stevens, "Environmental Impacts of Uranium Mining," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2017.

[2] A. Genova and P. Hatcher-Moore, "This Is What Nuclear Weapons Leave in Their Wake," National Geographic, 13 Oct 17.

[3] R. Smith, "'Loose Nukes' and the Threat of Nuclear Terror," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2017.

[4] E. Sagatov, "Nuclear Power in Kazakhstan," Physics 240, Stanford University, Fall 2010.