National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA and the Netherlands help Kazakhstan improve radioactive source management

August 27, 2019

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Containers with consolidated sources on long-term, secure storage pad at Mangystau Atomic Energy Complex-Kazatomprom.
Containers with consolidated sources on long-term, secure storage pad at Mangystau Atomic Energy Complex-Kazatomprom.
Employees celebrate after placement of all removed sources in the long-term storage cells at the Biakal-1 Reactor Complex in Kazakhstan.
Employees celebrate after placement of all removed sources in the long-term storage cells at the Biakal-1 Reactor Complex in Kazakhstan.

NNSA partnered with the Netherlands to complete two major radioactive source management projects in Kazakhstan during July, moving radiological security ahead in the Central Asian country.

The two projects, which were funded primarily by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and were supported by NNSA between 2012 and 2019, addressed the inventory, registration, and management of radioactive sources at Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Center (NNC) and Mangystau Atomic Energy Complex-Kazatomprom (MAEC-Kazatomprom). Both organizations belong to the handful of sites in Kazakhstan that provide long-term management solutions for radioactive sources that have reached the end of their useful lives.

These technically ambitious projects resulted in increased safety and security for more than 13,300 radioactive sources at the two facilities. Kazakhstani experts from NNC, MAEC-Kazatomprom, Nuclear Technology Safety Center, and other technical organizations accomplished this work by extracting sources from large, unused medical and industrial devices, characterizing and conditioning them in hot cells, and consolidating them in protective containers for long-term storage.

“These projects contribute to radiological security in Kazakhstan by facilitating a full accounting of stored radioactive materials, enhancing the safety and security of the packaging of stored materials, and creating more storage space for future radioactive material storage needs,” said Batyrzhan Karakozov of the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. “We are most grateful to our Dutch and U.S. partners for their support, not only because we were able to complete important work, but because these projects allowed us the opportunity to enhance our technical capacity in source end-of-life management.”

Baikal-1 personnel unloading transport casks containing sources returned from Mangystau Atomic Energy Complex-Kazatomprom (MAEC).
Baikal-1 personnel unloading transport casks containing sources returned from Mangystau Atomic Energy Complex-Kazatomprom (MAEC).

Radioactive sources must be safely and securely controlled throughout their lifecycle, as they can remain highly radioactive after their useful lives.

“Thank you to our Dutch colleagues for their support to these important projects. Radioactive source end-of-life management is a critical aspect of radiological security,” said Dr. Brent Park, NNSA’s Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. “The International Atomic Energy Agency recognizes that sources not in use are at risk of falling out of regulatory control. They can be more susceptible to loss or neglect.”

NNC hosted a ceremony in Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, July 23 for those involved in the projects to provide a full information session on the activities and mark the official completion of these two projects.

On July 25, William Moser, U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan, welcomed project participants to his residence to congratulate them on their accomplishments, including Dutch Ambassador Dirk Jan Kop, the Deputy Chairman of Kazakhstan’s Committee for Atomic and Energy Supervision and Control, and representatives from Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Energy, National Nuclear Center, Nuclear Technology Safety Center, and NNSA.

The long-term commitment to the project was key to its success.

“Performing the inventory and consolidation of sources at the two sites covered a period of seven years,” Kop said. “The project was made feasible by the contributions of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and was implemented with U.S. and Kazakhstani expertise. This fits in with the long-standing policy goals of the Netherlands to further nuclear safety and security and to enhance nuclear nonproliferation.”