Remembering the nuclear nightmare of Kazakhstan

June 18th, 2009 - 7:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Astana, June 18 (IANS) Sixty years since scientists of the erstwhile USSR detonated their first nuclear bomb in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan Thursday remembered the horror of almost 500 explosions - from 1949 to 1989 - the Soviets carried out at the test site in the vast steppe of the Central Asian country.
Though the test centre was closed down in August 1991 soon after Kazakhstan declared independence from the USSR, hundreds of thousands and their descendants continue to suffer in the poisoned land, which has taken a cumulative power of the nuclear explosions believed to equal 2,500 Hiroshima bombs.

As the sufferings, mutations and horrifying array of diseases are believed to continue destroying lives of the descendants of the sufferers for many more generations, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev hailed the “selflessness, fearlessness and enthusiasm of millions of Kazakhs to end the crime against life”.

The almost irreparable environmental damage has played havoc with people in Semipalatinsk suffering from high rates of cancer, childhood leukemia, impotence and birth defects, and experts believe that to restore the disrupted environment and ecology to its original state will take more than 300 years.

Over a million people were affected by the radiation and the effects of residual radiation remains unpredictable.

Nazarbayev expressed the need for the creation of a cluster of radiological medical treatment centers to diagnose and treat oncologic diseases and other maladies caused by the radiation.

“Our country has the absolute historical and moral right to be recognised as one of the leaders of the world anti-nuclear movement,” Nazarbayev told a gathering of thousands in Semipalatinsk, according to an official statement.

“Our experience of creating a nuclear weapon-free zone in Central Asia will influence other parts of the world to do likewise,” said Nazarbayey who has spearheaded the anti-nuclear policy and rid the country of the weapons of mass destruction.

Semipalatinsk was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. The site was selected in 1947 by Lavrentiy Beria, who was then the dreaded interior minister of the Soviet Union.

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