Kazakhstan observes anniversary of decision to end nuke tests

June 18th, 2009 - 3:02 pm ICT by ANI  

Astana, June 18 (ANI): Over 25,000 locals, Kazakh dignitaries and world media assembled at Semipalatinsk on Thursday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s decision to stop nuclear tests at the Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS).

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who presided over the function, traced the origins of the anti-nuclear movement in Kazakhstan.

He also spoke about the selflessness, fearlessness and enthusiasm of Kazakhs to end what he described as “a crime against life.”

The total power of nuclear charges in the atmosphere and on the surface of the STS was 2,500 times more than that of the power released by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The accumulation of radioactive material in the region exceeded that released by the Chernobyl accident in 1986. In all, 456 nuclear tests were carried out at the site, the last being carried on October 19, 1989.

The almost irreparable environmental damage played havoc with the health of the local population (high rates of cancer, childhood leukemia, impotence and birth defects).

The total number of Kazakhs subjected to the effects of radiation is thought to be more than million people and the effects of residual radiation remains unpredictable.

To restore the disrupted environment and ecology to its original state will take more than 300 years.

President Nazarbayev has already 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 radiation.

“Our country has the absolute historical and moral right to be recognized as one of the leaders of the world anti-nuclear movement”, said Nazarbayev.

Nazarbayev was entirely behind the grassroots movement from the very moment Kazakhstan declared its independence in 1991.

The de-nuclearised zone in Central Asia has a number of unique features:

1. Kazakhstan once had the fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

2. The de-nuclearised zone was the first to be created in the Northern Hemisphere.

3. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was the first multilateral security agreement to bring together all five Central Asian countries.

4. Finally, for the first time ever, a denuclearized zone has been created in a region that borders two nuclear states (Russia and China).

The Semipalatinsk Test Site was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. It is located on the steppe in northeast Kazakhstan (then the Kazakh SSR).

The scientific buildings for the test site were located around 150 km west of the town of Semipalatinsk (later renamed Semey), near the border of East Kazakhstan Province and Pavlodar Province with most of the nuclear tests took place at various sites further to the west and south.

Lavrentiy Beria, political head of the Soviet atomic bomb project, selected the site in 1947.

The first Soviet test- Operation First Lightning - was conducted in 1949 from a tower at STS, scattering fallout on nearby villages. Later tests were moved to the Chagan River complex and nearby Balapan in the east. Once atmospheric tests were banned, testing was transferred to underground locations at Chagan, Murzhik (in the west), and at the Degelen Mountain range in the south.

The site was officially closed on August 29, 1991.

Today, Semipalatinsk hosts two of Kazakhstan’s four nuclear reactors — The IGR complex hosts one 50-megawatt graphite moderated reactor and the Baykal-1 complex - a 60-megawatt water moderated reactor.

The laboratory complexes also contain two cyclotron laboratories and two particle accelerators. (ANI)

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