Project Sapphire was a successful 1994 covert operation of the United States government in cooperation with the Kazakhstan government to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. A warehouse at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant outside Ust-Kamenogorsk housed 1,322 pounds (600 kg) of weapons grade enriched uranium to fuel Alfa class submarines (90% U-235). Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the fuel was poorly documented and secured, and in danger of being sold for use in the construction of nuclear weapons.
The fall of the Soviet Union left nuclear weapons materials spread across developing countries. Two United States Senators, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, in office at the time, saw the importance of monitoring the location of these materials, so that they could help prevent nuclear proliferation. It was a fear that the lack of monitoring would result in the aid of underdeveloped or threatening countries that did not previously have access to this weapons grade materials. In the early 1990s, the two Senators were able to deduce a number of resources that Kazakhstan had because they became aware of the resources the Soviet Union had in the newly formed country.
- Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction—the source of the funds for Project Sapphire
- Hoffman, David E. (September 21, 2009). "Half a Ton of Uranium -- and a Long Flight". The Washington Post. (Part of a series: "The Dead Hand". The Washington Post.)
- Hoffman, David E. (2009). "Chapter 21: Project Sapphire". The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy. New York: Doubleday. pp. 439–458. ISBN 0-385-52437-4. OCLC 320432478.
- Carter, Ashton B.; William J. Perry (1999). "Chapter 2: Project Sapphire, the Nunn-Lugar Program, and Arms Control". Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. pp. 65–91. ISBN 0-8157-1307-X. OCLC 237337170.
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- United States Government (1996). "Project Sapphire After Action Report" (PDF). After Action report DTRA.