Proliferation News
» August 30, 2011

Semipalatinsk: From Nuclear Testing Site to Test Ban Treaty Support

Togzhan Kassenova | Carnegie Commentary


August 29 is a red letter day for nuclear testing. On that day in 1949, the Soviet military began forty years of nuclear tests—456 in all—at Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in the steppes of Kazakhstan. On August 29, 1991, following protests by thousands of Soviet citizens united by the Nevada-Semipalatinsk Movement, Kazakhstan shut down the site.

To encourage the banning of nuclear tests worldwide and in acknowledgement of Kazakhstan's actions the United Nations General Assembly designated August 29 the International Day against Nuclear Tests, in 2009.

On the twentieth anniversary of the closure of Semipalatinsk, it is important to recognize the role of the former weapons testing facility in strengthening the verification regime of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Kazakhstan was critical to the Soviet weapons program. It supplied material for nuclear weapons and nuclear submarines; it hosted strategic nuclear weapons; and it suffered bio-weapons tests on Vozrozhdeniye Island in the Aral Sea. Testing was the most critical element of the nuclear activities the Soviet military carried out in Kazakhstan. More than half of the Soviet Union's 715 tests were carried out at Semipalatinsk. Full Article   

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