Donate for DVDs of the Cryptome archive of 65.000 files from 1996 to the present


6  June 2011. Arms Control Wonk identified the site in November 2010:

6 June 2011. Also:

kurchatov.htm       Kurchatov Kazakhstan Nuclear Research Facilities   June 4, 2011

New York Times report, 22 May 2011: "Old Soviet Nuclear Site in Asia Has Unlikely Sentinel: The U.S."

Since this file was posted earlier today, a 2006 study has been found which confirms the location of the storage facility, titled "Baikal-1."  This document details the process of preparing and moving the casks.

The schematic drawing on the right shows the Google image provided below (rotated 180d). The Cask Storage Facility for the BN-350 casks is at the lower right of the drawing.


Below is the plan of the Aktau Temporary Cask Storage Site until the casks were moved to the Baikal-1 site.



NNSA Secures 775 Nuclear Weapons Worth of Weapons-Grade Nuclear Material from BN-350 Fast Reactor in Kazakhstan

Nov 18, 2010

The project also involved the construction of three separate facilities – the Aktau Temporary Cask Storage Site, the Kurchatov Rail Transfer Site, and the long term Cask Storage Facility in Eastern Kazakhstan.

The location of this secret weapons-grade nuclear material storage site in Kazahkstan is proposed by Cryptome based on several reports which generally describe its location and one by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (below) which said it is about 70 km (40 miles) from an unidentified off-loading railroad point which appears to be Kurchatov, a well-known nuclear research city:


The Sum of All Fears

ORNL plays a role in securing nuclear materials in Kazakhstan.


Sixty casks rise like towering white silos over a remote storage pad in the Kazakhstan steppe, 40 miles from the closest town and, more significantly, thousands of miles from terrorist hands. The casks, which hold more than 100 tons of nuclear material, are the result of an international nonproliferation project that has lasted more than a decade to secure nuclear material left in a former Soviet Republic.

Working alongside hundreds of Kazakh, Russian and American partners, ORNL scientists and engineers have been key players in a mission to safely move one of the world's largest stockpiles of spent nuclear material from a facility in western Kazakhstan to a more secure—and far more remote—area 2000 miles away. A November 18, 2010, completion ceremony marked the last shipment of nuclear material as officials, diplomats and representatives from the United States, Kazakhstan, the United Kingdom and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gathered to celebrate the success of the unprecedented project.

The target was a Soviet-era nuclear reactor known as BN-350, located in Aktau, Kazakhstan. The reactor has been a top priority in international nonproliferation efforts because of the quantity and quality of its spent material—enough for approximately 775 nuclear weapons. Originally built in the early 1970s to produce electricity, desalinize water and synthesize weapons-grade plutonium, the reactor was shut down in 1999, 8 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the establishment of Kazakhstan as an independent state. As Kazakhstan adopted a non-nuclear foreign policy, the spent material remained at the site, stored in reactor pools. Although the BN-350 material was sealed, secured and carefully monitored in accordance with IAEA requirements, the reactor's location generated concern among officials worried about terrorist efforts to obtain similar materials needed to build a nuclear weapon. ...

The 3-week journey of 2000 miles originated in Aktau, where five casks per shipment were loaded onto railcars for the trip's first leg. Specially designed for the project, the railcars carried the 100-ton cask plus an armor-like overpack weighing an additional 25 tons.

"Even though Russia uses a very similar cask and overpack for some of their civilian power plant material, they had no experience using rail transport, so these were the first railcars designed and manufactured for these specific casks," Snipes says. Researchers from ORNL's National Transportation Research Center supported the rail effort.

A convoy of five vehicles, flanked by guard and buffer vehicles to protect the material from potential attack, wheeled out a total of 12 shipments beginning in January 2010. The rail convoy brought the material to a transfer point 70 kilometers from its final destination. Because the railways did not extend the entire distance, tractor trailers carried the 125-ton packages the last leg of the trip to a remote complex. The storage pad, located in northeastern Kazakhstan, is part of the Semipalatinsk Test Site where the Soviets conducted hundreds of nuclear detonations before the site closed in 1991.

National Nuclear Security Administration


Jim Giusti, 202/586-7317 Thursday, July 12, 2001

United States Department of Energy and the Republic of Kazakhstan Ministry of Energy Mark the Completion of the Packaging of the BN-350 Fast Breeder Reactor Spent material

At a ceremony in Aktau, Kazakhstan today, American and Kazakhstani officials marked the successful completion of a project to package spent material from a reactor that was originally designed to breed excess plutonium for new reactor material. Officials from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Embassy, the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan (ROK) Ministry of Energy and Atomic Energy Committee, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attended the event at the BN-350 fast breeder reactor.

In June 2001, the joint Kazakhstan-United States-IAEA team closed the 478th canister of spent material and placed it in the BN-350 pool under IAEA seal. This completed a two-and-a-half year, $40-million project to condition and package nearly 3000 material assemblies, one of the largest such effort ever undertaken. IAEA inspectors verified the fissile material content of each material assembly prior to its placement in the canisters. The Department of Energy’s national laboratories developed and installed the neutron coincidence counters used by the inspectors.

Located on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea on the Mangyshlak Peninsula, the BN-350, was the first breeder reactor in the world with a large generating capacity. It was designed to generate up to 350 megawatts of electric power to supply steam for a desalinization plant, and to breed plutonium in excess of operating requirements to provide material for new reactor material, although it was never used for that purpose.

Kenneth E. Baker, Acting NNSA Deputy Administration for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation said of today’s ceremony, “The successful completion of this complex project is an example of how international cooperation can improve global security by reducing the risks posed by proliferation of fissile material.”

In 1996, the U.S. Department of Energy began a $15- million program of physical security enhancements at the reactor facility in order to ensure the appropriate level of protection of the plutonium-rich assemblies at the BN-350. In 1997 the United States and Kazakhstan signed an agreement that established a joint program for the long-term, secure and safe disposition of the BN-350 spent material. The project is an important milestone in U.S. and Kazakhstani efforts to safely shutdown the reactor.

Photo sources:

Google Earth satellite photos. Other photos from articles at the NNSA and ORNL sites and the NNSA News photos on Flickr:

Secret Kazakhstan Weapons-grade Nuclear Material Storage


Kurchatov Rail Transfer Site at center with gantry crane at lower right (2005).,78.50446&spn=0.006354,0.013078&z=17



Highly secure Baikal-1 site with triple-security fencing with motion sensors southeast of the village of Ak-Bota which appears to have been used by the Kazakhs and Russians secure storage and other purposes (2005). Red box shows location of future BN-350 casks site.


This appears to show recessed nuclear material casks (left), platform and gantry (traveling) crane (right) (2005).


This appears to show recessed nuclear material casks.


This appears to show a nuclear material cask truck-and-trailer transporter passing through Ak-Bota (2005).
(Thanks for spotting by a commenter on Google Earth.)


This appears to show a nuclear material cask truck-and-trailer transporter passing through Ak-Bota (2005).


Moving a nuclear material cask from a truck transporter to a train in Aktau (2010). US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)


Nuclear material casks awaiting shipment by train from Aktau to Kurcharov during mild weather (2010). NNSA


Nuclear material casks awaiting shipment by train from Aktau to Kurcharov during mild weather (2010). NNSA


Nuclear material casks awaiting shipment by train from Aktau to Kurcharov during cold weather (2010). NNSA


Five shipping casks in transit between Aktau and Kurchatov during mild weather (2010). NNSA


Five shipping casks awaiting off-loading to truck transporter, probably near Kurchatov (2010). NNSA-ORNL


Forty-seven casks in place, one being positioned, twelve to come, near Ak-Bota (2010). NNSA


Installing tamper and movement detection devices. NNSA


Fifty-five casks in place, five more to come, near Ak-Bota (2010). NNSA


Sixty casks in place, near Ak-Bota (2010). NNSA