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Russian nuclear tests have been conducted in two major areas. The former Soviet Union's largest nuclear test site was located near Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. The Semipalatinsk Test Site was founded in 1948 with the first nuclear explosion tested in 1949 and the last in 1989. Of the 467 nuclear detonations conducted there, 346 were underground, with the first of these underground experiments conducted in 1961. A total of 87 atmospheric and 26 surface nuclear detonations were also performed at the site between 1949 and 1989. Some tests involved multiple weapon detonations.
During the early days of the atomic energy program in the former Soviet Union, some unfortunate events occurred. The country's first atomic test in Semipalatinsk in 1949 exposed over 25,000 people downwind from the blast to significant doses of fission products, especially 131I.
Along with the problem of economic development, Kazakhstan must cope with some of the worst prevailing conditions of environmental pollution in the NIS, existing pollution inherited from the Soviet era. Major current environmental problems in Kazakhstan include radioactive and toxic chemical sites associated with former defense industries and test ranges which are found throughout the country, posing health risks for humans and animals. The environmental consequences of such activities as the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site The Pavlodar, Semipalatinsk, and the Balkhash Ore Mining and Metallurgical and Achisay Polymetal combines play major roles in surface water pollution. Following Kazakhstan's independence, the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) committed to studying the environmental contamination and the resulting radiation exposure risk to the population in the Semipalatinsk and western areas of Kazakhstan.
Sources and Methods
- DECONSTRUCTING THE DEATH RAY By Michael Dobbs Washington Post Sunday, October 17, 1999; Page F01 -- "This is probably the most significant instance during the Cold War of a policy that derived from an incorrect intelligence estimate," says John Pike, a defense analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. "This is a textbook case of satellite imagery being misinterpreted, leading to a huge increase in funding for a specific program."
- Thomas Cochrane, William Arkin, Robert Norris and Jeffrey Sands, Soviet Nuclear Weapons Nuclear Weapons Databook Volume IV, Natural Resources Defense Council [New York, Harper & Row, 1989].
- Thomas Cochrane, Robert Norris and Oleg Bukharin, Making the Bomb - From Stalin to Yeltsin [Boulder, Westview Press, 1995]
- Kazakhstan: Nuclear Past Looms Over East By Merhat Sharipzhan -- Almaty, 19 February 1997 (RFE/RL)
- Nuclear Weapons Test Locations
- EML-584 "Environmental Radiation Measurements at the Former Soviet Union's Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site and Surrounding Villages", Peter Shebell and Adam Hutter
- Exhibit portrays terror of atomic testing Jill Cramer
- The Range Takes Off Its Army Greatcoat. What Next?, Yuriy Kirinitsiyanov, RABOCHAYA TRIBUNA, 12/16/1994 -- Interview with Viktor Kiyanskiy, professor at the West Kazakhstan Agriculture Institute and chairman of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly Environment Commission on nuclear test ranges.
- Schwarzenegger Should Fly to Kazakhstan. An Ownerless Nuclear Bomb Has Been Found There, Aleksandr Budberg, MOSKOVSKIY KOMSOMOLETS, 2/24/1995 -- Combat-Ready N-Bomb Said Rusting Away in Semipalatinsk
- Effort To Dismantle Nuclear Device at Semipalatinsk -- Dismantlement To Start in March , KAZAKHSTANSKAYA PRAVDA, 2/14/1995 -- In Kurchatov there has been a regular meeting of the coordinating group, set up in line with the agreement between the Kazakh and Russian Governments on dismantling a nuclear device deployed at the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground before its closure.
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