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Kazakhstan’s unfinished, unfixed, problem of radioactivity at Semipalatinsk

The Nazarbayev government, lacking financial resources, has done very little to address the security problems at Semipalatinsk and has not spent a penny to clean up the area.
map-semipalatinsk-kazahkstanThe continuing danger of Semipalatinsk http://thebulletin.org/continuing-danger-semipalatinsk9969 6 OCTOBER 2016 Magdalena Stawkowski  During the Cold War, the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in Kazakhstan was the Soviet Union’s primary nuclear weapons testing ground. Between 1949 and 1989, more than 450 nuclear bombs were exploded above and below ground on its once secret, 7,000-square-mile territory. In the post-Soviet period,Kazakhstan has attracted much international praise for its “extraordinary leadership” and “courage” in closing Semipalatinsk, for giving up its nuclear weapons stockpile, and for helping to create a nuclear weapon free zone in Central Asia. Kazakhstan has also been celebrated for having an extraordinary record in advancing nuclear security and thus was judged to be perfectly suited to host an international fuel bank for low-enriched uranium. The Obama administration has described Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, as “really one of the model leaders in the world” on non-proliferation and nuclear safety issues.

These commendations are perhaps overly enthusiastic. They exaggerate Kazakhstan’s commitment to nuclear safety; actually, Kazakhstan’s leadership has done little to address pressing humanitarian issues at Semipalatinsk, failing to provide adequate funding for environmental clean up and adequate security for the site itself. How can the world talk about nuclear safety in Kazakhstan when it is the only place on Earth where thousands of people still live in and around an atomic test site? How can there be safety, when residual radioactivity and environmental damage are a normal part of life for people who live there? Nuclear security should mean more than the physical protection of nuclear materials. Nuclear security must also mean the physical protection of individual citizens from radioactivity.

Today, most of the abandoned Semipalatinsk territory is accessible to anyone who wishes to enter. Except for a 37-mile area “exclusion zone” at the Degelen Mountain complex, guarded by drones and other surveillance equipment, few signs indicate radiation danger. For the thousands living nearby, it is no secret that the former nuclear testing area is poorly secured. I have been conducting anthropological fieldwork in the region since 2009, living in Koyan, a remote village on the nuclear test site’s border. I know first hand the ease with which people make use of the territory. (“Koyan” and “Tursynbek,” the name of an ethnographic interlocutor mentioned later in this article, are pseudonyms, used to protect village residents and the interlocutor following the convention of confidentiality spelled out in the American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics on professional responsibility).

Koyaners, like most everyone else living in and around Semipalatinsk, use the test site in a number of ways: They drive across the dusty steppe during warmer months to visit relatives in nearby villages. In July and August, men, women, and children come back from the site, buckets brimming with wild strawberries they have picked from its shallow valleys. Many graze their herds of sheep, goats, horses, and cows on the Semipalatinsk pastures, sometimes near craters formed by underground explosions. Many of these places are known to contain radioactive “hot spots,” but since the area around Koyan is mostly unmarked, no one in the village is certain where the hot spots are. Koyaners are not privy to this information, because no one in the government shares it with them.

On a hot, sunny day in July 2015, Tursynbek, a burly stockbreeder and miner in his mid-50s, decided we should go out and measure radiation on our own. As we got in the car, he complained that when he has had a chance to ask scientists, who occasionally do research in the area, if there is radiation, they dismiss his concerns by saying, “There is nothing here; no radiation.” I made sure to bring my Geiger counter on this trip, and a short car ride later I was looking down from the rim of a nuclear crater, trying to hear the Geiger counter readings Tursynbek was shouting. His camouflage jacket was barely visible on the steep pitch, among the tall grasses; a rather sizeable water hole was beyond, inside the crater. He scanned the ground for radioactivity, his white paper sanitary mask pulled down under his chin, rather than over his mouth. The sanitary mask was meant to protect against small particles of plutonium or other radioisotopes that are dangerous when inhaled but can be stopped by a sheet of paper. But Tursynbek was not afraid. Tursybek knows this area well; he was born in Koyan and has decades of experience raising livestock, sheep, goats, cows, and horses, which includes grazing them on the test site.

Still, he had never been here on this kind of mission. As he climbed out, he eagerly used the Geiger counter to check the wreckage of the atomic landscape: trenches, mangled barbed wire enclosures, scattered cement blocks with clusters of electrical cables jutting from them. The frantic clicking of the Geiger counter disturbed the otherwise calm summer afternoon. Not far from us, Kazakhstan’s Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology (IRSE) wazik (van) carrying “geologists,” as the scientists are known to Koyaners, passed by. “They have never shared any of this information with us,” Tursynbek said motioning to the van and pointing at the .700 milliRem per hour reading displayed by the counter.

Normal background is between .008-.015 milliRem/hr. According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Americans receive an average radiation dose of about 620 milliRem per year. Half of this dose comes from naturally occurring radiation found in soil, rocks (uranium), and air (radon). The other half comes from man-made sources, like radiation therapy, x-rays, and nuclear power plants. At the crater, five weeks is enough time to receive the average yearly dose of radiation described by the NRC. In one year that dose is equal to 6,136 milliRem.

Looking around the abandoned test site, it is almost never obvious what went on here, except at a few key experimental locations, which have decaying cement structures and other visible points of interest. The once high levels of security have long since disappeared. Yet for 40 years various technical sites at Semipalatinsk were used to experiment with different types of nuclear explosions. At “Ground Zero” for example, 116 aboveground tests were conducted, as part of a full-scale experiment designed to record damage done to animals (sheep, goats, cows, and pigs), plants and soil, building construction, military equipment, and people living in settlements found near the site. At other technical areas, more than 300 underground nuclear explosions were used to test their peaceful applications. Several of these high-yield tests produced nuclear craters and contaminated much of the area nearby.

Near the nuclear crater Tursynbek and I visited, only a small and badly faded radiation warning sign clung to a mangled barbed wire enclosure that once provided some level of protection. The plight of people who suffered from radiation exposure during the Soviet-era is well known in the country and abroad, even if the level of radioactive pollution and its impact on human health are hotly disputed, in local and international peer-reviewed scientific journals.

In an August 2015 editorial for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United States, Kairat Umarov, highlighted the fate of 1.5 million Kazakh citizens whose lives continue to be affected by nuclear testing. He wrote with the optimism of a man hoping to promote a nuclear-weapons-free world. But Umarov ignored an obvious fact: The Nazarbayev government, lacking financial resources, has done very little to address the security problems at Semipalatinsk and has not spent a penny to clean up the area. Praise of the nation’s leadership for making Kazakhstan a non-nuclear state has come at a price: It has overshadowed and limited conversations about lack of oversight of Semipalatinsk and the toxic mess that the Soviet nuclear testing program left behind and continues to endanger thousands of citizens living in the area. Given this unresolved and underreported situation at Semipalatinsk, the international community should offer financial help and expertise for the cleanup of Semipalatinsk, or at the very least help with cordoning off the most contaminated areas of the site.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | environment, Kazakhstan, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Illness legacy of 456 nuclear weapons tests at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan

studies have detected among area residents heightened levels of leukemia and cancer of the breast, colon, esophagus, liver, lung and thyroid. They have also revealed higher levels of cardiovascular and blood diseases, chromosomal aberrations and congenital anomalies.

Kazakhstan: Living with Semipalatinsk’s Nuclear Fallout, EurasiaNet August 26, 2016 –  by Joanna Lillis   In the village of Znamenka in northeastern Kazakhstan, adults have vivid memories of nuclear explosions rocking text-relevantthe steppe.

 “We saw mushroom clouds — big and terrifying ones,” recalled Galina Tornoshenko, 67, shaking her head at the traumatic memory and gesturing upward at the clear blue sky. “I was small at the time, but I remember it well.”…….Over the next 40 years, 456 blasts were detonated there, releasing energy 2,500 times that of the first atomic weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The tests turned swaths of Kazakhstan into a toxic wasteland and ravaged the health of locals, who were, in effect, human guinea pigs……..
The site was mothballed in 1991, the year of the Soviet Union’s collapse. But for the people still suffering from the fallout, the atomic legacy is living on. Now renamed Semey, Semipalatinsk lies 120 kilometers east of the former ground zero, which is marked by a poignant monument in a city park depicting a woman nursing a child under an exploding mushroom cloud.In a small apartment on the outskirts of Semey, Mayra Zhumageldina is massaging her daughter’s twisted limbs. “If you don’t do massage, they freeze up,” Zhumageldina told EurasiaNet.org, smiling down fondly at her disabled daughter. “I took a special massage course to do this.”

Zhannur Zhumageldina, 25, was born in the village of Olzhabay, 200 kilometers from the polygon, the year after it closed and three years after it conducted its last explosion.

anencephaly
At 15 months old, she was diagnosed with microcephaly, a rare neurological condition in which the head is abnormally small, impeding brain development, and scoliosis, curvature of the spine. Both conditions were caused by radiation exposure. Her diagnosis came as a bolt from the blue to her mother, pregnant at the time with her second child, a son who was born healthy.

“I didn’t even know the polygon existed until Zhannur was 15 months old,” said Zhumageldina, a single mother who cares full-time for her severely disabled daughter, who cannot walk or talk. “I was in shock.”

Across the city, in a cramped apartment in another drab suburb, Berik Syzdykov whiles away his days listening to music videos and strumming on his dombra, a traditional stringed instrument. Syzdykov, 37, was born blind and with severe facial deformities in Znamenka, the village where adults remember mushroom clouds exploding on the horizon.

“Once, there was a big explosion,” said his 73-year-old mother Zina Syzdykova, leaning back and closing her eyes. “It was the winter of 1979 and I was pregnant. Two months later, Berik was born like this.”

“Polygon,” she said with a shrug. “We didn’t know anything about it… When Berik was born, I cried and cried, but how would I know what was wrong with him?”
………Over four decades, nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk affected 1.5 million Kazakhstanis in some form, Nazarbayev has asserted. Due to poor record-keeping and Soviet official secrecy, it is still not known precisely how many people received dangerous doses of radiation, Togzhan Kassenova of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Policy Program told EurasiaNet.org. Data cited in one Kazakh-Japanese study suggests a quarter of a million people may have received elevated doses.

Dr. Zhaxybay Zhumadilov, a scientist from Astana’s Nazarbayev University who has researched the impact of the tests with experts from Hiroshima University, says studies have detected among area residents heightened levels of leukemia and cancer of the breast, colon, esophagus, liver, lung and thyroid. They have also revealed higher levels of cardiovascular and blood diseases, chromosomal aberrations and congenital anomalies.

Determining exposure and drawing meaningful conclusions is complicated, because “for years, what happened at the Semipalatinsk test site, [and] its effects on human health and the environment, were treated as classified information,” Zhumadilov told EurasiaNet.org. There is no international analogy for such “repeated acute external and long-term internal chronic exposure.”………

the Semipalatinsk victims grapple with the consequences of the tests a quarter of a century on. Lump sum compensation paid out in the 1990s, mostly amounting to a few hundred dollars, is long since spent. Many sufferers now must make due on social welfare payments.Showing files of records of her dogged – mostly futile – approaches to officialdom and charities for assistance, Zhumageldina counts herself lucky to have state-subsidized housing costing just $8 for her one-room apartment, from the $150 in monthly welfare that the family lives on. She notes that it took her 19 years of lobbying before she was granted the subsidy benefit.

The state provides free medical care for the test victims: Zhumageldina’s daughter has recently undergone treatment in Astana to alleviate her condition, for which there is no cure. Still, Zhumageldina strikes an upbeat note. “Zhannur means everything to me,” she said with a gentle smile, flicking through an album showing photos of her disabled daughter growing up. “Everyone said I should abandon her – the doctors, my husband, my mother-in-law. … I said no. I’m going to look after her.”

Syzdykov received financial support from the government and an Irish charity for multiple operations in Kazakhstan and Europe, but still this man robbed of his sight by the Semipalatinsk tests dreams of seeing what the world looks like.

“If I could see, it would be good,” he said. “If not, there’s no need for any more surgery.” http://www.eurasianet.org/node/80311

August 27, 2016 Posted by | children, health, Kazakhstan | Leave a comment

Kazakhstan to Host Major Nuclear Disarmament Conference

world-nuclear-weapons-freeAstana to Host Major Nuclear Disarmament Conference http://astanatimes.com/2016/08/astana-to-host-major-nuclear-disarmament-conference/ BY AIMAN text-relevantTUREBEKOVA  24 AUGUST 2016

ASTANA – The Kazakh capital will host the international conference “Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World,” dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site and commemorating UN International Day against Nuclear Tests at the Palace of Independence Aug. 29, the Senate of the Parliament announced.

The Kazakh Senate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) have co-organised the conference.

It will be addressed by President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and will bring together parliamentarians, representatives of international organisations, civil activists, scholars, mayors and media from around the world.

The event will include a plenary session and four panel sessions: “Security without nuclear weapons or war: Manifesto “The World. The 21st Century”; “A nuclear test ban and the role of the UN in achieving nuclear disarmament;” “National prohibition and nuclear-weapons-free zones. Geography of a sustainable world;” “Initiatives and campaigns – legislators, religious leaders and civil society”.

Conference participants will commemorate victims of nuclear tests, consider current disarmament  issues and make proposals on how to strengthen international security.

According to Speaker of the Kazakh Senate Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the 25th anniversary since the closure of the Semipalatinsk Test Site is a date of global significance.

“President Nursultan Nazarbayev is recognised as a leader of the global antinuclear movement. His decision on the full closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site is the first and the only such case in the disarmament history of the world. The idea of complete nuclear disarmament underpins the Manifesto, “The World. The 21st Century.” The anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk Test Site is the best opportunity for the entire world community to consider the paramount importance of establishing sustainable peace on the planet and to propose new common solutions to security problems,” he said on the eve of the event.

On Dec. 2, 2009, at Kazakhstan’s initiative, the UN unanimously declared Aug. 29 the International Day against Nuclear Tests. “For nearly a decade as UN Secretary-General, I have witnessed many of the worst problems in the world, as well as our collective ability to respond in ways that at times seemed impossible. Our ambitious new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change have demonstrated the power of political will to break long-standing deadlocks. On this International Day against Nuclear Tests, I call on the world to summon a sense of solidarity commensurate with the urgent need to end the dangerous impasse on this issue,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a special message on this year’s International Day against Nuclear Tests.

In his message, made public by the UN shortly prior to the date, Ban Ki-moon said, “Today marks a quarter of a century since the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, ground zero for more than 450 nuclear tests. The victims there are joined by others scattered across Central Asia, North Africa, North America and the South Pacific.”

He continued, “A prohibition on all nuclear testing will end this poisonous legacy. It will boost momentum for other disarmament measures by showing that multilateral cooperation is possible, and it will build confidence for other regional security measures, including a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction. When I visited Semipalatinsk in 2010, I saw the toxic damage – but I also witnessed the resolve of the victims and survivors. I share their determination to strive for a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The UN Secretary General went on to urge Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation member states to act now.

“Those states whose ratification is required to bring the treaty into force should not wait for others. Even one ratification can act as a circuit breaker. All states that have not done so should sign and ratify because every ratification strengthens the norm of universality and shines a harsher spotlight on the countries that fail to act,” he said.

Kazakhstan knows well those catastrophic human consequences. The Soviet nuclear weapons tests at the Semipalatinsk site, caused illnesses and premature death to an estimated 1.5 million people and contaminated a huge area.

The Manifesto “The World. The 21st Century,” which was released by Nazarbayev earlier this year, is another contribution to the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world and to an end to war. The main idea of the manifesto is to prevent war by utilising common security and international law approaches such as diplomacy, negotiation, mediation, arbitration and adjudication.

August 26, 2016 Posted by | Kazakhstan, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Japan keen to sell nuclear reactors to Kazakhstan

Abe,-Shinzo-nuke-1Japan to construct nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan, Tengri News, 27 Oct 15 
For more information see:http://en.tengrinews.kz/politics_sub/Japan-to-construct-nuclear-power-plant-in-Kazakhstan-262718/
Use of the Tengrinews English materials must be accompanied by a hyperlink to en.Tengrinews.kz

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reiterated his country’s readiness to construct a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan, Tengrinews.kz reports……

October 23 Tengrinews.kz reported, citing the country’s Vice Minister of Energy Bakhytzhan Dzhaksaliyev, that Kazakhstan was to decide within the following 2-3 years on the location and strategic partner for its first nuclear power station.

January 23,2015 Tengrinews.kz reported that Kazakhstan had started talks with Toshiba, owner of Westinghouse, to construct its first nuclear power plant. The sides were to sign an agreement on supplying a $3.7 billion reactor capable of 1 gigawatt, according to Russia’s Kommersant daily.

Early 2014 the country’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev commissioned the Government to decide before the end of the Q1 2014 on the location, sources of investments and timing of constructing a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan.

In his Address to the Nation at the start of 2014, President Nursultan Nazarbayev elaborated why Kazakhstan needs to construct a nuclear power plant.

He emphasized that the future lies with nuclear power……… “The actual need for a nuclear power plant will be felt around 2025 given the current power generation and consumption figures”, he elaborated.
For more information see:http://en.tengrinews.kz/politics_sub/Japan-to-construct-nuclear-power-plant-in-Kazakhstan-262718/

October 28, 2015 Posted by | Japan, Kazakhstan, marketing | Leave a comment

Kazakhstan’s disaster of dead animals near Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site

“Rapid, stunning and complete” die-off of animals near nuclear site — 150,000+ antelopes bleeding from internal organs, pits brimming with corpses — Experts completely baffled: “It’s really unheard of… 100% mortality, I know of no example in history like it… Doesn’t make any sense” (PHOTOS)http://enenews.com/rapid-stunning-complete-crash-animal-population-nuclear-site-150000-antelopes-dead-after-bleeding-internal-organs-experts-100-mortality-example-history-like-really-unheard-doesnt-make-sense-infe?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29 

NBC News, Sep 3, 2015 (emphasis added): Now, the researchers have found clues as to how more than half of the [Kazakhstan saiga antelope] herd, counted at 257,000 as of 2014, died so rapidly. Bacteria clearly played a role in the saigas’ demise. But exactly how these normally harmless microbes could take such a toll is still a mystery, [Steffen Zuther, with the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative] said. “The extent of this die-off, and the speed it had, by spreading throughout the whole calving herd and killing all the animals, this has not been observed for any other species,” Zuther said. “It’s really unheard of.”… Tissue samples revealed that toxins, produced by Pasteurella and possibly Clostridia bacteria, caused extensive bleeding in most of the animals’ organs. But Pasteurella is found normally [and] usually doesn’t cause harm unless the animals have weakened immune systems. (Below: Semipalatinsk nuclear test wasteland,  Kazakhstan)

semipalatinsk-wasteland

Live Science, Sep 2, 2015: [In] four days, the entire herd — about 60,000 saigas — had died off. Workers struggled to keep up with the mass dying, quickly burying the animals that died in heaps. Scientists were completely baffled… necropsies revealed that bacterial toxins from a few species of pathogen had caused bleeding in all of the animals’ internal organs… [Pasteurella] rarely causes harm unless their immune system has already been weakened by something else. And genetic analysis suggested this was a garden-variety pathogenic form of the microbe, which has never caused such a rapid, stunning and complete crash in a population before. All told, more than 150,000 saiga have died [which]may be an underestimate, as that number only counts saiga who have been buried…

New York Times, May 29, 2015: The numbers and images that describe a mass dying of the critically endangered saiga… in the Betpak-dala region of Kazakhstan are stunning. Hastily bulldozed pits brim with corpses… The enormous new saiga die-off is particularly devastating… there had been previous die-offs… in 1955, 1956, 1958, 1967, 1969, 1974, 1981 and 1988.

Richard Kock, Royal Veterinary College: “It’s very dramatic and traumatic, with 100-percent mortality…. I know of no example in history with this level of mortality.”

BBC, Jun 1, 2015: An unknown environmental trigger is thought to have caused two types of normally benign bacteria found in the antelopes’ gut to turn deadly… “Over two days (in the herd I was studying) 80% of the calving population died,” [Zuther] told the BBC. The whole herd then died within two weeks… Two different bacteria, pasteurelosis and clostridia, have been found in every dead animal studied. These bacteria are naturally found in the animals… so something must have reduced the immunity of the animals… “There’s no infectious disease that can work like this,” said Prof Kock… losing 100% percent of some populations within two weeks “doesn’t make any sense” from a biological or evolutionary perspective, Prof Kock said… all individuals affected by the sudden die-off are from the largest remaining Betpak-dala population

U.S. National Research Council, 2001:Radionuclide Contamination at Kazakhstan’s Semipalatinsk Test Site — 498 nuclear tests were conducted [and] vented underground detonations occurred through 1989… some Kazakh scientists opine that residual radioactivity is responsible for ongoing health impacts… Pathologies in cohorts born after the atmospheric tests appeared to be significantly higher… [Prof. Saim Balmukhanov, the prominent director of the Institute of Oncology] made a particular case that various pathways of exposure to plutonium particles from the soil may be a causative agent… There is little doubt that people living in the STS region suffer from a range of adverse health effects, includinghigh rates of infectious and noninfectious diseases, cancer, and hematological disorders… The STS is located in the plains of the dry Eurasian steppe… Steppe fauna includes… the migratory saiga antelope… [I]nformation exists suggesting that plants at the test site can hyperaccumlate radionuclides… During meetings with ecologists from Kazakhstan State National University a claim was made that in the past, there were 100 species of higher plants at the STS, now there are fewer than 40Many animal species have disappeared

September 11, 2015 Posted by | environment, Kazakhstan | Leave a comment

IAEA opening new nuclear fuel bank in Kazakhstan

New nuclear fuel bank a welcome development, Japan Times, 25 Aug 15 BY  “………(on Aug. 27), Kazakhstan is establishing a major new international fuel bank, which it will operate on behalf of the IAEA. The new facility should once and for all remove the main excuse that has been advanced, sincerely or not, for building and maintaining homegrown enrichment capability.

Scheduled to commence operations in 2017, the Kazakh fuel bank will store up to 90 tons of LEU, sufficient to refuel three typical power-producing light water reactors. While Kazakhstan will physically operate the bank, the uranium will be owned and controlled by the IAEA, and made available to non-nuclear-weapon states if, for any reason, they cannot secure the LEU they need from the commercial market.

Provided the state in question is in compliance with its comprehensive non-proliferation safeguards agreement with the IAEA, it can draw the required fuel from the bank and transfer it to a fuel fabricator to make fuel assemblies for the reactors involved…….

The bank has been funded by voluntary contributions, including $50 million from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a U.S.-based NGO, $49 million from the U.S. government, up to $25 million from the European Union, $10 million each from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and $5 million from Norway…… http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/08/25/commentary/world-commentary/new-nuclear-fuel-bank-a-welcome-development/#.VdzQBSWqpHx

August 26, 2015 Posted by | Kazakhstan, technology | Leave a comment

A voice for the victims of atomic bomb testing – no more nuclear weapons!

Kuyukov,-Karipbek,-KazakhstI am asking you to wave goodbye to these weapons, though I cannot do so myself. But I can raise my voice, and my paintbrush, and I will do that until the day I die, to ensure that the world sees what has happened in my country and my community, and more importantly, to make sure that this never happens again, in rich countries or in poor countries or in any other hidden place on earth. Children like me were hidden for long enough. I want to use my voice to tell you about us, now, and use my brush to show you the beauty and heartbreak of my landscape

Eliminating the World’s Nuclear Weapons by Bicycle Silk Road Reporters, by Karipbek Kuyukov  23 Apr 15 On April 21, another push – many miles worth, in fact – was added to the growing worldwide drive to rid the planet of nuclear weapons as the Bike Away the Atomic Bomb riders begin their journey from Washington, D.C. to New York to call for real action to be taken at the UN Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York on April 27. I won’t be riding with them. I couldn’t hold the handlebars, or anything else, for that matter: when I was born, outside the now-closed Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in eastern Kazakhstan, it was without arms.

Mayak disaster

I’m not unusual, where I come from. Forty years of nuclear testing and hundreds of nuclear explosions have blighted swathes of the beautiful steppe there and shattered the surrounding communities, as their effects began to be seen in birth defects and diseases, which continue to this day. The UN estimates that 1.5 million people in Kazakhstan have been affected by the Soviet Union’s nuclear test programme. There are many people like me.

I am determined to be the last.

In a sense, I am lucky: Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, shut down the poisonous Semipalatinsk test site in 1991, in defiance of the government in Moscow, and upon independence set about dismantling Kazakhstan’s formidable nuclear arsenal. Ukraine, Belarus and South Africa join Kazakhstan among the list of countries to renounce their nuclear weapons.

But I and they are also citizens of the world, and while our countries may be free of nuclear weapons, we remain vulnerable as long as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty remains a dream. We have been waiting since 1996 for this ban to become a reality, and I call on China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States to finally sign and/or ratify this treaty. They must ensure that not one more person suffers from the consequences of nuclear testing and nuclear weapons use in the future.

I may not be able to ride with them, but I will be joining Mayors for Peace, Bike for Peace and The ATOM Project in Washington D.C. before the bikers start this new leg of our journey toward nuclear sanity. We are joining Global Wave 2015 in its schedule of coordinated public actions urging humanity – and particularly the decision-makers at the UN conference – to wave goodbye to nuclear weapons.

Tore Nærland, co-founder of Bike for Peace, and Thore Vestby, mayor of Frogn, Norway, who is also vice president of Mayors for Peace and a member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament are among those who will be riding for four days from Washington to New York.

For this tour, Vestby says, he has a specific message: That nuclear weapons cannot be used, because of their enormous humanitarian and environmental consequences, and are therefore useless………

I am asking you to wave goodbye to these weapons, though I cannot do so myself. But I can raise my voice, and my paintbrush, and I will do that until the day I die, to ensure that the world sees what has happened in my country and my community, and more importantly, to make sure that this never happens again, in rich countries or in poor countries or in any other hidden place on earth. Children like me were hidden for long enough. I want to use my voice to tell you about us, now, and use my brush to show you the beauty and heartbreak of my landscape………   The author is the honorary ambassador of The ATOM Project.  http://www.silkroadreporters.com/2015/04/23/eliminating-the-worlds-nuclear-weapons-by-bicycle/

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Kazakhstan, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Review: an apocalyptic nuclear film with a strangely pro nuclear spin

After the Apocalypse: The anti-nuclear film that wasn’t, Nuclear Free by 2o45? by Dennis, 27 Feb 15 

As the fourth anniversary of the earthquake-tsunami-meltdown syndrome approached, I looked back at an example of pro-nuclear spin that appeared in the media in the spring of 2011. Ironically, the pro-nuclear message discussed here is a film about the horrors of atomic weapon blasts in The Polygon, the sacrifice zone in Kazakhstan where the Soviet Union detonated hundreds of nuclear and thermonuclear bombs. I’m timing this article to also commemorate the birth of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk anti-nuclear movement which is marked every year in Kazakhstan on February 28th.

After the Apocalypse [1] is a one-hour documentary that takes place in Semipalatinsk, a town in north-eastern Kazakhstan where the USSR detonated 456 nuclear weapons, many of them large-yield megaton hydrogen bombs. The camera goes to radioactive craters where herders still take their animals to graze. It goes to a museum where the pickled corpses of deformed babies sit in jars. However, the horror show of the past is not the main attraction. The film concentrates on the fierce struggle that still goes on today over the reproductive rights of the Kazakhstan hibakusha. The director, Antony Butts, follows a pregnant woman, Bibigul, whose wide-set eyes suggest chromosome damage. She wants to give birth despite the protestations of Toleukhan Nurmagambetov, a doctor who talks of the deformed, and too often abandoned, babies in the region as “monsters.” Continue reading

February 28, 2015 Posted by | Kazakhstan, Resources -audiovicual | Leave a comment

The dream of Karipbek Kuyukov, on UN International Day against Nuclear Tests

I have a dream: A world free of nuclear weapons Aljazeera,  28 Aug 2014  China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the US are still to sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Karipbek Kuyukov is the Honorary Ambassador of The ATOM Project. The UN International Day against Nuclear Tests on August 29 is an opportunity to remind the world about the inhumane consequences of nuclear explosions. It is a day which has a special meaning for the many thousands of people who, like me, grew up in Eastern Kazakhstan.
Kuyukov,-Karipbek,-KazakhstI was born 100 kilometres from the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site where the Soviet Union exploded more than 600 nuclear devices between 1949 and 1991.  They have had terrible physical consequences for the people who lived near them.
I came into this world without arms. People often ask me if I can be sure that radiation was the cause. If you had lived in my home town or region, this would not be a question.

In the place where I grew up, I saw mothers and midwives shocked at the sight of their babies. I saw families too embarrassed to show their children to the outside world, hiding them deep inside their homes and bringing them out only briefly for fresh air and sun.
I witnessed families and whole communities decimated by radiation-related cancers. As the United Nations confirms, more than 1.5 million people in Kazakhstan have suffered the effects of Soviet nuclear weapons testing.
The most terrifying fact about this story is that we didn’t understand the impact these explosions would have. We were taken completely by surprise – and this, I believe, is why it is so important that we use August 29 to warn the world about the impact of nuclear testing. We must never forget what happened or allow others to remain in the dark.
I saw so much tragedy and suffering in my homeland that I decided to do everything possible to ensure that my generation is the last to suffer such damage. I became an activist in an anti-nuclear weapons movement and found peace in expressing my pain through art.
I use my feet and mouth to hold my brush and pour out in my own colours my inner world, calling on others to follow my cause. Today, I am an honorary ambassador of The ATOM Project, an online campaign to encourage the global leadership needed to totally eliminate the nuclear threat.
Since its launch two years ago, The ATOM Project has taken the stories of Kazakhstan’s nuclear testing survivors around the globe. On my travels, I have made many new friends in many countries who have encouraged us to continue our work.
We now have over 90,000 supporters from more than 100 countries and have set ourselves a goal of reach the 100,000 mark by August 29. You can help us reach this milestone by signing the petition and showing your desire for a nuclear-weapons-free world.
And over the last two decades we have seen progress. Even before Kazakhstan became a fully independent country, our leader, and now President, Nursultan Nazarbayev shut down the Semipalatinsk test site in 1991 in defiance of then Soviet government in Moscow. On independence, our country also voluntarily gave up the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal, which we had inherited from the Soviet Union. Similar courageous decisions were taken by Ukraine, Belarus and South Africa who all renounced their nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programmes………http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/i-dream-world-free-nuclear-weap-201482874433467528.html

 

August 29, 2014 Posted by | health, Kazakhstan, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Deformities in Semipalatinsk area due to radiation from nuclear bomb testing

HBO: ‘Genetic passports’ for major population exposed to nuclear radiation? “It has deformed their genes, sorry it’s a bit of a bummer” — Twins attached by organs growing outside body, ’1-eyed cyclops’, babies with giant heads… “they respond to the people around them” (GRAPHIC PHOTOS & VIDEO) http://enenews.com/hbo-genetic-passports-major-population-exposed-nuclear-radiation-deformed-genes-sorry-bit-bummer-twins-attached-organs-growing-body-one-eyed-cyclops-babies-heads-photos-video

PVICEby Thomas Morton, May 4, 2014: “How Fucked Are Nukes? […] way worse than Hollywood has the special effects to depict. A lot of mainstream accounts […] soft-pedal the body horror that acute radiation poisoning causes […] eyewitness testimony from Robert Jay Lifton’s Hiroshima classic Death in Life: […] “at a glance you couldn’t tell whether you were looking at them from in front or in back […] very young girls, not only with their clothes torn off but with their skin peeled off as well. My immediate thought was that this was like the hell I had always read about.” […] If you haven’t already gone to the bathroom to slit your wrists […] VICE on HBO covers the second major population intentionally exposed to atomic radiation—the Kazakhs living around the Semipalatinsk Testing Polygon, where the Soviet Union tested 456 nuclear bombs.

While they weren’t close enough to the blasts to experience the sort of immediate deformities [suffered by the Japanese –] It deformed their genes. Sorry it’s a bit of a bummer.”

Watch the part of the HBO broadcast here

See also: Japan Professor: I believe airborne release of cesium-137 from Fukushima equals 400 to 500 Hiroshima nuclear bombs — Another 400 to 500 bombs worth has already flowed into Pacific Ocean (VIDEO)

May 14, 2014 Posted by | children, Kazakhstan | Leave a comment

Climate change bad for nuclear industry: floods disrupt uranium mining

Thursday March 20, 2014,  The World Nuclear Association reported that melting snow is to blame for the disruption of a number of uranium operations in Southern Kazakhstan.

According to the WNA:

National atomic company Kazatomprom reported that snow melt has damaged roads near the village of Taykonur in the Sozak region of South Kazakhstan oblast. This has restricted access of vehicles delivering chemical reagents to the Inkai in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mine and processing plant in central Kazakhstan. The Inkai project is owned and operated by Joint Venture Inkai, which is 60% owned by Canada’s Cameco and 40% by Kazatomprom.

Click here to view the full report. 

March 21, 2014 Posted by | climate change, Kazakhstan | Leave a comment

A personal story of nuclear-caused suffering, and of hope

antinuke-worldSmThe petition – located here – is part of the campaign of The ATOM Project to draw global attention to the need to show more leadership and take decisive steps towards the elimination of the nuclear threat. Anyone in the world can sign the petition and contribute to building a nuclear-weapons-free world.

My experience of the nuclear horror http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/25/my-experience-of-the-nuclear-horror/ By Karipbek Kuyukov,   CNN 25 Sept 13 Editor’s note: Karipbek Kuyukov is an artist and Honorary Ambassador of The ATOM Project, a global campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons testing. The views expressed are his own.As world leaders gather for the United Nations High-level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament in New York, I would like to deliver a short message from the survivors of nuclear weapons testing in Kazakhstan.

The perpetual question of whether to pursue the nuclear arms race or eradicate nuclear weapons has divided international opinion. Experts, politicians and world leaders have traditionally sided either for or against nuclear arms. Some believe that nuclear weapons help preserve peace, yet surely many more believe these weapons are a certain path to another world war and the eventual obliteration of mankind.

But although there has been much discussion of the issue, few on either side have turned for advice to the victims of nuclear tests and explosions. We have a lot to say and a right to be heard.

I was born in 1968, about 100 kilometers away from the notorious Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in eastern Kazakhstan where the Soviet Union tested hundreds of nuclear devices over four decades. I was born without arms, a result of the horrific impact of nuclear radiation on the health of our people. As I grew up, I saw that I was not alone.

I saw mothers and midwifes shocked at the sight of other babies born with birth defects. I saw families too embarrassed to show their children to the outside world, hiding them deep inside their homes and bringing them out only briefly to have some fresh air and sun. I saw families and whole communities decimated by radiation-related cancers. As the United Nations notes, more than 1.5 million people in Kazakhstan suffered the effects of Soviet nuclear weapons testing, which lasted from 1949 until 1991. Continue reading

September 26, 2013 Posted by | Kazakhstan, weapons and war | 3 Comments

Kazakhstan’s idea to grow food on plutonium contaminated land

Pu“Opening the land for grazing and other land use will be an unforgiveable mistake,” said Leonid Rikhvanov, a professor at Russia’s Tomsk Polytechnic University, in a 2010 interview with the Telegraph. “If the plutonium gets into the biological chain it could cause a cytogenetic catastrophe that will backfire on the health of our children and grandchildren.” Many people living near Semipalatinsk feel similarly
An experimental farm has been set up in Kazakhstan to study the medical and biological interaction between radioactivity and the environment, writes Jillian Keenan. SBS News 24 Sept 13 By 
Jillian Keenan  Source Foreign Policy, By most accounts, the former Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk is unfit for life. Across roughly 7,000 square miles of barren Kazakhstan steppe, there are hardly any people. Even animals and birds, it seems, intuitively know they should stay away. Decades-old craters pockmark the earth, remnants of the more than 450 nuclear explosions that took place here between 1949 and 1989. Broken vodka bottles scattered in the grass near “Ground Zero,” the site of the area’s first nuclear test, hint at the dread associated with Semipalatinsk: Vodka, some nearby residents believe, can guard against the effects of radiation exposure. Visitors are warned to cover their shoes with protective plastic before stepping onto the soil, and to shield their faces with masks.
semipalatinsk-wasteland

But in this poisoned place, on a small patch of land near a few downtrodden trailers, there’s an unexpected hint of vitality: bright yellow sunflowers, clustered together near rows of corn, and a barn full of plump sheep. Here, scientists from Kazakhstan’s Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology, a governmental organization that studies the medical and biological interaction between radioactivity and the environment, have developed an experimental farm. Their goal is to measure the transference of radioactivity from contaminated soil into edible crops, and from those crops into the meat, milk, and eggs of the animals that eat them. Continue reading

September 24, 2013 Posted by | - plutonium, environment, Kazakhstan, Reference | Leave a comment

Kazakhstan’s water imperilled by in situ leaching of uranium

Scientists studying the effects of ISL doubt how quickly mine sites can self-cleanse. This uncertainty appears to be little known to both Kazakhstan’s nuclear industry and fledgling environmentalists.

no site in the US has been entirely returned to pre-mining conditions

The cost of being the world’s No.1 uranium producer Kazakhstan’s industry has skyrocketed in the past 10 years. But what could that mean for the environment? Christian Science Monitor, By , Staff writer / August 28, 2013 ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN

If you make a toxic mess under one of the most isolated parts of the planet, does it matter if you don’t clean it up? Does it make a difference if that mess will be there for thousands of years? Scientists are asking those questions as Kazakhstan has steadily risen to become the world’s No. 1 uranium producer, surpassing such nations as the United States, Canada, and Australia, which require more cleanup.

Rather than employing miners to haul rock up to the surface, mine operators in Kazakhstan have embraced a newer – and generally cleaner – process by which a chemical solution is injected down a pipe to dissolve the underground uranium deposits and then is sucked back up to the surface.

In-Situ-Leaching

This in situ leach (ISL) method avoids making a mess above ground, but leaves toxic levels of heavy metals in the ground water. In the US, companies using the method have tried for years and failed to return ground water to its pre-mining state. Continue reading

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Kazakhstan, Reference, Uranium, water | 1 Comment

The nuclear devastation in northeastern Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s Painful Nuclear Past Looms Large Over Its Energy Future, The Atlantic 13 May 13, The central Asian country is positioning itself as a global nuclear leader, but it’s haunted by the lasting impacts of Soviet testing decades ago……….. Kazakhstan is moving forward with plans to build a civilian nuclear power facility for domestic energy needs, possibly on the Aktau site of a now defunct Soviet-era plant…..

“Kazakhstan’s people and environment have endured tremendous suffering as a result of Soviet nuclear weapons testing,” said Dr. Togzhan Kassenova, an associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The majority of people, if asked, would express support for global nuclear disarmament and would display pride of Kazakhstan’s own record in shutting down its nuclear testing site and removing all nuclear weapons from its territory.”……
 August 29, 1991, closure of Semipalatinsk, the world’s second largest nuclear weapons testing site. At the beginning of the Cold War, Stalin chose the remote corner of northeastern Kazakhstan, also known as “The Polygon,” to test the first Soviet bombs. When Lavrenti Beria, the head of the KNVD secret police, selected the site, he claimed it was “uninhabited.” It wasn’t.
Mayak disaster
Today, the area (which is not surrounded by a barrier of any kind to prevent humans and animals from roaming freely) has been called the ” world’s worst radiation hotspot.“……. Continue reading

May 14, 2013 Posted by | environment, Kazakhstan | Leave a comment