You are here

Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman’s Remarks to the International Forum for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World

October 12, 2011 - 12:48pm


Please find below Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the International Forum for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World in Astana, Kazakhstan.

A fact sheet describing the broad scope of U.S.-Kazakh nuclear security cooperation is available here:


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  It is an honor to have the opportunity to represent the United States today and to address such a distinguished group of dignitaries, leaders, and experts from around the world.

President Obama could not be here today, but wanted to address this forum and has sent the following message, which I am honored to share with you:

“I send greetings to all those attending the International Conference for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World.

On the 20th anniversary of the permanent closure of the nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, I commend the Republic of Kazakhstan and President Nursultan Nazarbaev on this historic decision that helped set the stage for future nuclear reduction and nonproliferation efforts.  This ceremony today reminds us that ending nuclear testing must remain a top priority for the global community.

For nearly two decades, the United States and Kazakhstan have worked together to secure and eliminate biological weapons.  Our partnership is a testament to what is possible when nations come together in a spirit of cooperation to embrace our shared responsibility and confront a shared challenge.  I am hopeful this same level of cooperation will be demonstrated by all nations at the 7th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention this December.

Kazakhstan has been a longtime leader in nonproliferation and nuclear security, as well as a friend to the United States.  I look forward to continuing our joint projects in these areas.”

As President Obama made clear, the choice faced by Kazakhstan 20 years ago – either to cling to its inherited nuclear stockpile of more than 1,400 nuclear warheads, or to embrace a future as a leader of a world free of nuclear weapons – has had a dramatic impact on the global community and nuclear security efforts worldwide.

Fortunately for all of us – for the international community, for global nuclear security and, above all, for the people of Kazakhstan – President Nazarbaev chose the path toward peace.  This momentous decision, to choose to disarm, and to take firm measures to secure the country’s stocks of nuclear materials, has made the world a safer place.

Mr. President, speaking on behalf of the United States and citizens around the world, thank you for your leadership and vision.  We all owe you a sincere debt of gratitude.

In the twenty years since President Nazarbaev’s dramatic decision, the United States of America and the Republic of Kazakhstan have worked together closely to achieve our shared nuclear security goals.  This collaboration, achieved with the support of many international partners, has helped successfully to eliminate or remove every nuclear warhead inherited by Kazakhstan after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and has led to the removal of hundreds of additional missiles and bombers.

To this day, Kazakhstan continues to partner closely with the United States and other like-minded states to combat nuclear terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons. 

In fact, I am proud to announce today that we have reached a new milestone in our joint efforts to reduce the global threat of nuclear proliferation.

As part of our work to eliminate the remaining stocks of highly-enriched uranium in Kazakhstan, our two nations partnered with the International Atomic Energy Agency to blend down 33 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from the Kazakh Institute of Nuclear Physics in Almaty.  The resulting low-enriched uranium cannot be redirected for use in nuclear weapons.  Instead, it will be returned to the Institute for future scientific work that will support the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

We are grateful for the work of all of those involved, including the experts at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk, who completed the blend-down process.

This latest milestone builds on a history of successful efforts between our two nations to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world, to combat illicit trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials, to strengthen the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and to substantially reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles.

These efforts have included a comprehensive campaign to safely shut down the BN-350 reactor and secure 775 nuclear weapons-worth of used fuel at the facility.

They have included the installation of nearly 20 radiation detection systems at Kazakhstani sea and air ports and border crossings, to thwart black market dealings in nuclear and radioactive materials.

They have included projects through the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), to engage former Kazakh weapons scientists in peaceful pursuits, and so to prevent the spread of expertise in nuclear weapons development and production.

And they have included unprecedented steps to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world.

Twenty years ago, President Nazarbaev set an example for all to follow when he chose a path without nuclear weapons.  President Obama shares this pioneering vision, and in Prague set forth a strategy to achieve that end.

That is why, under his leadership, the United States has already taken bold steps: 

  • February of this year marked the entry into force of the New START Treaty between the United States and Russia, which will reduce the number of deployed warheads in our two countries to their lowest levels since the 1950s.


  • The U.S. is also committed to ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and we continue to make progress toward our shared commitment to bring the CTBT into force by strengthening its verification regime. 


  • And earlier this year, the U.S. and Russia brought into force a landmark agreement for each nation to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium.     

President Nazarbaev’s path-breaking decision 20 years ago to close the Semipalatinsk Test Site and rid his country of nuclear weapons created a moral example for the world to follow. 

Since that time, the United States and Kazakhstan have deepened our partnership, working together to strengthen nuclear security around the world and to pursue our shared vision for a world without nuclear weapons.

On behalf of the United States of America, we are proud to work alongside you and others who share this vision, and we look forward to continuing our close cooperation for many years to come.  Thank you.