Uzbek rocket fuel to be made safe by NATO experts

The largest joint Uzbek and NATO project in the past decade to destroy old rocket fuel was launched on Nov. 26, at the Aktash military base near Samarkand.

Andrei Aleksandrov

2009-12-01

TASHKENT — The largest joint Uzbek and NATO project of the past decade to destroy old rocket fuel was launched on Nov. 26 at the Aktash military base near Samarkand. The project (under NATO’s Science for Peace and Security programme) has a budget of US$1.8 million.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its former republics inherited a number of local Soviet military facilities, including the Aktash rocket base. Some rockets were later transferred to Russia, but more than a thousand tonnes of rocket fuel remained at the Aktash base.

“It was initially hoped that the fuel could be sold at a high price to the Russian military, and then other buyers were sought, but there were no takers,” said one expert, Viktor Ivonin.

NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme Director Chris De Wispelaere said that when NATO experts inspected the fuel storage site, “it was found that a huge quantity of an explosive and extremely toxic mixture was being stored in deteriorating conditions…The Uzbek project will run for one year and 1100 tonnes of fuel will be reprocessed. The work will be carried out in an entirely transparent manner, which is a matter of principle for us,” he said.

The initiative is the most high-tech project to be implemented in Uzbekistan under NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme. At the end of the 1990s, Uzbek troops participated in NATO exercises in the U.S. and Germany, and joint Centrazbat and NATO exercises were conducted in Uzbekistan. After the events of 2005 in Andijan, however, when the government brutally repressed a public demonstration, joint cooperation efforts were scaled down.

“Joint cooperation is now being renewed in the field of ecology, which is important for all of humanity,” De Wispelaere commented.

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