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Cablegate: Kazakhstani Railway Officials Commit to Bn-350 Dry-Run

VZCZCXRO4086
OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHTA #2070 3241124
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 201124Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6894
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 2177
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2248
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1547
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 1182
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1737
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1592
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2596
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2894

UNCLAS ASTANA 002070

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN
NSC FOR JOYCE CONNERY
ENERGY FOR NNSA/GTRI

TAGS: PGOV PREL KNNP MNUC RS KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTANI RAILWAY OFFICIALS COMMIT TO BN-350 DRY-RUN
DATE

1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: On November 19, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
representative met with officials from Kazakhstan's Ministry of
Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) and Kazakhstan Temir Zholy
(KTZh) -- the national railway company and primary rail authority --
to discuss the BN-350 spent-fuel transport. KTZh agreed to allow a
dry run beginning on December 1. U.S. and Kazakhstani
representatives discussed who will participate in the dry run, and
approved a list including DOE National Nuclear Security Agency
(NNSA) staff, along with Kazakhstani Ministry of Interior Special
Troops and representatives from Kazakhstan's Atomic Energy
Commission and National Nuclear Center. KTZh also agreed to allow
actual BN-350 spent-fuel shipments immediately after the
Commonwealth of Independent States' International Railcar Commission
certifies the specialized railcars in January 2010. END SUMMARY.

3. (SBU) On November 19, Kazakhstani experts from the Ministry of
Energy and Mineral Resources, its subsidiary organizations, and
Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZh) agreed to allow a dry run from Aktau
to the Baikal-1 storage facility at the Semipalatinsk Test Site
using U.S.-provided railcars. Kanat Almagambetov, Acting Director
for Operations of KTZh reiterated his agency's unwillingness to
allow any spent-fuel transport until completion of the formal
railcar registration process. Almagambetov stated categorically
that KTZh will not take responsibility for any possible incident
related to the quality of the railcars, because they were not
produced or certified in Kazakhstan, but manufactured at the Russian
Federation's Tver railcar production facility.

4. (SBU) In order to satisfy concerns about potential liability in
case of an accident, KTZh wants the Commonwealth of Independent
States' International Railcar Commission to show its commitment to
quality control through formal registration of the railcars in the
CIS International Railcar Commission Register. (COMMENT: The
register typically is used only for standard cars, such as passenger
or restaurant cars, not specialized cars. END COMMENT.)

5. (SBU) During a dramatic speech, Almagambetov stood at the head of
the table for emphasis and explained that KTZh has received phone
calls from throughout the Kazakhstani government to complain about
KTZh's foot dragging. He then committed to sign off personally on
the dry-run contract and take responsibility for the inaugural round
trip of the railcars. However, he asserted that KTZh would not
accept liability for railcars with which it has no history or
knowledge. According to Almagambetov, the CIS Commission must
formalize the railcars' testing and certification process through
the registration process. This, he explained, will give KTZh
"someone else to point at" in case of an incident. (COMMENT: For
decades, Russia has utilized dozens of this type of railcar for
spent-fuel transport. END COMMENT.)

6. (SBU) The CIS Commission agreed to KTZh's November 12 request to
register the specialized railcars and will formalize it during a
committee vote on November 25. The last step of the formal process
will occur on January 20, 2010 during the Commission's biannual
board meeting to be held in Riga. After the Commission officially
registers the railcars, KTZh will allow use of the railcars in
Kazakhstan to transport BN-350spent fuel.

SPRATLEN

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