Astana forum of global scale. President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s initiatives on disarmament and nonproliferation

Oct 13. Kazpravda

By Vladimir Kuriatov, Zhiger Abenov, Maxim Szymanski

Astana forum of global scale. President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s initiatives on disarmament and nonproliferationAstana-hosted international forum for a nuclear weapons-free world opened yesterday at the Palace of Independence and brought together 400 scientists, experts and politicians from different countries, the heads and representatives of international organizations – UN, IAEA, OSCE, SCO, CSTO, EurAsEC, CICA, UNESCO, CTBTO … UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s videoed greeting to its participants and U.S. President Barack Obama’s read at the plenary session confirm the forum’s global significance.

Kazakhstan’s meaningful contribution

“I take responsibility and decree the closing of the Semipalatinsk test site. A nuclear page in our history must be turned over”, – the head of state said it 20 years ago and those words started a documentary shown before the plenary session of the international conference held in Astana within the forum for a nuclear-free world.

The film was about nuclear explosions in Kazakhstan and their tragic toll on the population.

“Three seconds, two, one …” – a poisonous mushroom cloud appeared on the monitors of the Independence Palace – a documentary evidence of the first test on August 29, 1949 at a secret military test site in Kazakhstan, 130 kilometers off Semipalatinsk. The plutonium explosive yield amounted to 22 thousand tons of TNT equivalent. It was stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

The newsreel told about another date, which ended the era of nuclear madness. In 1991, the tests were stopped. Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to close the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. This bold and visionary step was taken in the soviet time athwart the enormous pressure from the military-industrial complex.

And it was truly a historic decision that stopped the arms race. Following the example of our country, other nuclear test sites of the world went silent.

The film hit home. Although the forum participants were aware of the scale of Kazakhstan’s tragedy, the film touched everyone to the quick. To know is one thing and to see is quite a different story… When Nursultan Nazarbayev entered the hall, he was met with applause as President and the first man in the world to make a real contribution to nuclear disarmament.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev welcomed the guests and said that today nuclear safety issues are number one in world politics.

Last year, the United States and Russia signed the first Prague treaty in this century to reduce strategic nuclear arsenals, which has taken effect. At the same time Washington hosted the Global Summit on Nuclear Safety. Three weeks ago in New York held was a high-level meeting on the issue at the initiative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In the works is the Seoul summit, scheduled for next March.

The Astana forum, he said, is an important step to bring together policy makers and general public on the whole spectrum of problems of nuclear safety. That it has gathered so many participants is a vivid indicator of global demand for the idea of a nuclear-free world.

Further, Nursultan Nazarbayev turned to the history. 20 years ago, Kazakhstan was the first in the world to have closed the nuclear test site on its land. As the documentary showed, over the four decades it had seen more than 450 bombings, including more than 120 in the atmosphere. Their total capacity was enough to destroy twenty five hundred Hiroshimas.

Radiation poisoned the area of more than 300 thousand square meters, which is roughly equal to the area of a big European country, for instance Germany. Nuclear tests have victimized more than half a million people.

– My decree to close the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site has started an irreversible movement for our Independence, the 20th anniversary of which we will celebrate this year, – said Nursultan Nazarbayev. – For all Kazakhstanis it was a historic act of awareness of their exclusive sovereignty, power and wisdom, confidence in the present and future. This explains the will of the people united in the movement “Nevada – Semipalatinsk”. We have not just freed the world from the biggest “nuclear evil abode”. We have made a principled choice in favor of a nuclear-free history of our country and the world.

According to the President, Kazakhstan has also relinquished the nuclear arms inherited from the Soviet military machine. It was the 4th-largest nuclear missile potential in the world. The republic had nuclear bombs and means of weapons delivery.

Over the next 5 years with the assistance from the United States and Russia dismantled were over 110 ballistic missiles with nuclear 1 200warheads, which could reach any point on the globe. It was the nuclear arsenal that exceeded nuclear forces of Great Britain, France and China put together.

Kazakhstan was the first CIS country to accede to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

– Today I can say frankly that it was a massive step to real independence of Kazakhstan, N.Nazarbayev continued. – In exchange, we demanded and received in 1995 strong international guarantees of our security from the leading nuclear powers – the United States, Russia, Great Britain. Later, they were joined in it by France and China.

15 years ago Kazakhstan became a member of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Together with our neighbors in the region we signed the Semipalatinsk Treaty establishing a zone free of nuclear weapons in Central Asia. Today our country is at the forefront of global anti-nuclear movement.

– Signing the decree closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site 20 years ago, I was happy because of the victory over that evil. But I had to overcome fierce resistance from the military-industrial complex of the USSR and its then leadership headed by President Gorbachev, – Nursultan Nazarbayev said.

Pressure on Kazakhstan was across-the-board. But with each passing year and decade, the global significance of this decision has becoming clearer.

The present generation has not evaluated the historic scale of the event to the full, which can be confirmed by the following: the humanity has availed of a secret of splitting the atom for nearly 100 years. This discovery was a great scientific breakthrough if the twentieth century. But it has been cynically used to create the most powerful weapons of mass destruction.

The power and enormity of the military atom forced politicians to seek ways to counter the threat of self-destruction of civilization. This is how global non-proliferation process began.

In its framework, signed were several international treaties to reduce nuclear arsenals and facilities for testing weapons of destruction. But all this, according to the head of state, was only restrictive measures.

The closing of the Semipalatinsk test site was the first and so far the only complete and accomplished ban on nuclear weapons tests in the world.

Kazakhstan has decided once and for all that power and strength of the new state is not in its nuclear muscle, but in its non-use and complete abandonment. That was laid in the core of our statehood, popular wisdom brought to the level of a national idea. In fact, August 29, 1991 began a new era of global nuclear history. The world got an example of voluntary, well-conceived and unilateral legal act that outlawed the “judgment day” arms. And the significance of this step made by Kazakhstan has become really unlimited in time and space.

It was but natural for the UN to proclaim August 29 the International Day against nuclear testing at the initiative of our republic.

Two decades at the turn of the centuries have significantly reduced the risk of global nuclear confrontation. The boundary of nuclear missiles in Central Europe has disappeared. Implementation of START 1 and START-2 has significantly reduced the arsenals of the United States and Russia. The CICA process initiated by Kazakhstan, step by step increases trust between states in the vast region of Eurasia. The comprehensive treaty banning nuclear tests has been already signed by 182 countries and ratified by 154. Largely due to Kazakhstan, silenced were other sites of the planet – Nevada, Lop Nor, New Earth. Nuclear club powers observe a moratorium on testing.

– In general, for 20 years important steps towards a nuclear free world have been made. But, nevertheless, many difficult questions are open, – the President said.

First, the regional dimension of nuclear safety has grown significantly more important. Today there is no effective system of international control over nuclear arms race in South Asia and the Middle East. We are seeing opposition of some nuclear states and “threshold” countries. The threat is grave that nuclear technologies and materials may fall into the hands of international terrorists.

Second, the standoff has developed around the Treaty on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It can not come into force because of dragged process of signing and ratifying by a number of nuclear and “threshold” countries.

Third, the global nuclear disarmament process does not involve all nuclear club powers.

According to Nursultan Nazarbayev, there are several types of nuclear states: official nuclear powers, countries having de facto nuclear weapons and so-called “threshold” states.

Nuclear powers do not give security guarantees to countries without nuclear weapons. This can lead to its “creeping” into the world’s explosive regions.

– So why not admit states de facto having nuclear arms to this club and impose appropriate responsibility for the possession of nuclear weapons? – asked the President. According to him, in spite of all treaties and agreements, at the end of the last century two countries still developed into nuclear weapons states.

Fourth, the international community has not found a fair approach to states that develop the peaceful atom. Asymmetric rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty prescribe sanctions only against non-nuclear states, while others continue to implement appropriate programs.

– In these conditions, the lack of trust has become a significant problem. And without trust no security system can be effective, – said Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Fifth, the current threat posed by the atom, has been aggravated by imbalances in matters of compliance by the security regime of peaceful nuclear energy. It is not only insufficient monitoring by the IAEA of “peaceful atom” facilities or vague international legal framework on this issue. The biggest imbalance is serious lagging behind of the security technology of nuclear power from the nuclear industry development. In some cases, the commercialization of nuclear energy cycle makes safety issues pale into insignificance at all.

The President drew attention to another aspect. The growing interest of multinational corporations in nuclear energy is almost ignored in international conventions on the use of the “peaceful atom”. All these are complex problems that require solutions.

– And yet, never in the century the humanity has possessed the technology of splitting the atom, had we so many opportunities to build a world without nuclear weapons. It is our common duty to use this opportune moment! – said the Kazakhstani leader.

The President believes that a nuclear-free world is not utopia. In many parts of the world it is reality. Zones free of nuclear weapons were created in Central and South America, Australia and Oceania, Africa, Southeast and Central Asia – in almost half of the world. And they need an effective mechanism for international legal guarantees from all the nuclear states.

The head of state said that the idea of a nuclear-free world has nothing to do with radiation phobia. For six decades on end, an ominous shadow of “military atom” prevented from appreciating and seeing enormous prospects of global nuclear power industry. There is a stubborn fact – hydrocarbon reserves are depleting. Renewable energy sources are promising. But in the foreseeable future they cannot give the amount of electricity necessary to meet the increasing pace of global economic development.

Today, humanity has no more powerful and accessible source than nuclear energy.

– Now about 40 countries conduct research in the field of peaceful nuclear energy. 15 countries are building or planning to create nuclear power plants. Among them is Kazakhstan, – said Nursultan Nazarbayev. – For us, nuclear energy is a future innovative cluster. We have a quarter of the world’s uranium reserves. We have great scientific capacity and nuclear energy infrastructure. Strictly observing the international commitments we have ensured a high level of security for all “peaceful atom” facilities.  As known, Kazakhstan offered its candidacy for the role of the depositary of the International Nuclear Fuel Bank, operating under the auspices of the IAEA. And the republic expects a positive resolution of this issue.

– Kazakhstan has always been and remains the most reliable partner in the non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful use of atomic energy. Nuclear-free world is an ambitious goal and the whole planet should strive for its achievement. This is a new universal human value, which is not subject to corrosion because of any ideological and cultural differences – the President said.

At 66th session of UN General Assembly Kazakh leader advanced the idea of the Universal Declaration of nuclear-free world. This was a hard-won and logical step of the country which twenty years ago threw out the challenge to “nuclear Moloch.”

– We realize that to accept such a declaration today is not so simple. The states do not want to get rid of nuclear weapons. Their leaders think that it hinders others, when they terrify the whole world with a “nuclear big stick”, – said Nursultan Nazarbayev.

According to the President, the path to nuclear-free world is impossible without joint efforts of all sensible people of the world, i.e., without global participation. Today it is important to create an authoritative and powerful Global anti-nuclear movement. Its main goal is not only to deal with the nuclear threat. It is important to consistently generate antinuclear consciousness of mankind, as absolute rejection of all forms of nuclear weapons.

– For me, as for the President of the country which was the first to close the nuclear test ground, a nuclear-free world is an absolute political axiom.

The historic decision

State Secretary Kanat Saudabayev, moderator of the plenary session, called the conference special, since it is held in Kazakhstan, whose people experienced horrific consequences of nuclear explosions.

He noted important role of participation of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, on whose will the nuclear test site was closed, and our country voluntarily refused from one of the largest nuclear arsenals.

Speaking about Kazakhstan’s role in the global disarmament, Deputy U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Poneman said that our country greatly influenced the international community in the sphere of security.

Kazakhstan and the United States worked together in the field of disarmament. This collaboration continued under support of many international partners in order to destroy nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles located on the territory of the republic.

– I am proud to announce that we have reached a new milestone in our joint efforts to reduce the global threat of nuclear proliferation. Destroying the remaining stocks, the two countries, in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency processed 33 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from the Kazakh Institute of Nuclear Physics in Almaty – said D. Poneman.

The processed low-enriched uranium cannot be used for nuclear weapons. Instead, it will be returned to the institute for scientific work on safe use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in the future.

The U.S. representative, thanked all the participants for the work done, including specialists of Ulbinsk Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk, which completed the process of recycling.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, in turn, was talking of the agency in the international security system. But first, he said that Astana was the best place for holding such a conference. Kazakhstan has made a significant contribution to the cause of disarmament and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and continues to play a major role in this process.

A nuclear-free zone was created in Central Asia on the RK initiative. However, this does not mean that peaceful use of nuclear energy is prohibited there. It is possible, but, as emphasized by Y.Amano, under the supervision of the IAEA. It is important to eliminate the risk of nuclear terrorism and illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials.

It is expected that a decision on the country in which the bank of nuclear fuel is located, will be taken before the end of this year, he added.

Y. Amano also outlined several key points that will contribute to creating a nuclear-free world. First: the IAEA should play a leading role in nuclear disarmament. This requires effective use of existing mechanisms of control.

The second aspect: the agency will support creation of new nuclear-free zones. They already cover large parts of the world now, but in the long run the initiative should be expanded. In particular, in the next month a Forum will be held in Vienna, at which it is planned to discuss establishing a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

The third key point is that nuclear material used for peaceful purposes must not fall into the hands of terrorist groups.

Executive Secretary of CTBTO Tibor Toth thanked Kazakhstan and its leader for support provided by the international community in this area.

– However, I would not call this day a holiday. This is the day that reminds us of the nuclear threat, the day when we must gather the strength to cope with current challenges, when we need to be inspired by the example of Kazakhstan – said T. Toth.

In the global arsenal there are still a lot of nuclear weapons. In September 2009, the UN Security Council pledged to achieve a nuclear-free world.

– This measure can be regarded as “quixotic”, but it is not so, – said the speaker. – The example of Kazakhstan shows that this task is feasible when there is the will and wisdom of political leaders. Kazakhstan opened a chapter that led to disarmament of fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

It was emphasized that the republic destroyed many nuclear warheads; intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers were decommissioned and deactivated.

Disarmament has shown that the state can refuse from nuclear weapons without consequences for their safety. This is a necessary and achievable goal. Today, according to T. Toth, is the time of actions. That’s why it is expedient to speed up the CTBT.

Executive Secretary in this regard urged to demonstrate political will of the states, which had not yet ratified this important document. It’s time to move from voluntary moratorium on ban on nuclear tests to legally binding global standards.

As we can see, experience of our country is recognized as invaluable by many politicians. And a member of the U.S. Congress Eni Faleomavaega, outstanding figure of the world’s non-proliferation process was no exception. Moreover, taking into account the merits of Nursultan Nazarbayev, he called the Nobel Committee to recognize the contribution of the President of Kazakhstan to nuclear disarmament.

E. Faleomavaega is a representative of the Pacific region. His people know firsthand about horrors of nuclear testing. United States conducted nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. Therefore, he called the decision to close the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site historical.

– It was the decision that changed the world, – said the congressman. – That’s why I made such a long journey to be here with you. I am here to express my gratitude to President Nursultan Nazarbayev for his leadership in nonproliferation.

… More detailed discussions of non-proliferation and disarmament’s mechanisms were held at the panel sessions. Vladimir Garkun, First Deputy Chairman of CIS Executive Committee, speaking at the first session with the main topic “Achievements of nuclear weapons’ free world”, on the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site, noted significance of this event for the global community. On the one hand, it reflects a broad recognition of a stronger role and authority of Kazakhstan, pursuing the policy of good neighborliness and openness to constructive cooperation. And on the other – confirms a real contribution of the country to constructing the world, free from nuclear weapons, and strengthening international security system.

B. Garkun also spoke about the role of the Commonwealth in promoting global security.

During the session presentations were made by the governor of the U.S. state Kansas S. Brownback, co-chair of the International Commission on Non-Proliferation J. Kawaguchi and others.

The landmark is secure future

The afternoon of the Forum was marked by two panel sessions, where they discussed the renunciation of nuclear weapons, as well as creation of nuclear weapons’ free zone zones free from it. Already at the beginning the speakers made several proposals to establish contacts and to form common institutions. In addition, public opinion should have no less effect in the process of disarmament, than strong position of the state. According to the delegate of Japan Hiroshi Kavauchi, this is the very tandem able to bring the anti-nuclear movement to a new level.

He was entirely supported by his colleague Naokazu Takemoto. He said: Japan and Kazakhstan are in the vanguard of this movement, and Semei and Hiroshima – Nagasaki have brought the two countries even closer together.

Apart from that the speakers determined a formula of “zero disarmament”: the nuclear powers must feel responsibility for the planet and reduce their arsenals. We must create a strong dialogue platform and strengthen confidence among the states. And active role in this sense can be taken by the civil society and nongovernmental organizations. All structures should work together on nuclear disarmament and prevention of collapse.

Creation of zones free of such weapons, according to the speakers is a starting foundation for the global disarmament. They also proposed to impose penalties on those who are still continuing to develop new technologies in the field of nuclear weapons. Maintenance and service of the world arsenals have reached $ 1 trillion dollars. Forum participants noted that these funds could be directed to alternative directions, which are more useful to mankind.

Concluding the international conference, RK Minister of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Kazykhanov proposed to adopt the text of the final declaration. According to him, the document includes ideas and presentations by the participants, made during all the meetings.

– In cooperation with the IAEA and the UN we have created several zones, free of nuclear weapons. And now, during the panel sessions, new tasks were set, and promising proposals on further actions – voiced, – said the foreign minister. – The adopted document reflects the main points of the forum. Some delegates made a special contribution to the declaration.

This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of closure of the Semipalatinsk test site, and it is very emotional and sensitive time for the whole country. I propose to adopt the Astana Declaration as it is currently drafted.

In summary, E. Kazykhanov noted that the Declaration and its provisions would be the landmark in progress towards nuclear-free future of the planet.