Semipalatinsk Test Site: history of nuclear monster

Weapons of mass destruction, developed in the last mid-century, still remain the most terrible global threat.

In the Soviet Union, the role of the “testing venue” went to Semipalatinsk Test Site, located at the junction of East Kazakhstan, Karaganda and Pavlodar regions

The yield of all warheads was

25000 higher

than the power of the first bomb in the history of mankind dropped on Japanese Hiroshima


The first test took place on August 29, 1949,

and the programme was officially shut down in October, 1989

The first state act of sovereign Kazakhstan sent a signal to the entire planet: our country is striving for a world free from the nuclear threat.

456 nuclear tests

(340 underground and 116 aboveground) were conducted during four decades.

4 explosions

were conducted between 1965 and 1968 within the framework of peaceful uses of the nuclear testing programme, such as construction of lakes or canals, one of which generated Lake Chagan.



The health impacts of radiation on inhabitants of the region were devastating.

More than 1.5 million people suffered from the tests at the Semipalatinsk Test Site

In August 1956,

more than 600 residents of Ust-Kamenogorsk city were hospitalized with radiation poisoning. Women living near the test site were more likely to give birth to children with chromosomal diseases (including Down's syndrome and other congenital health disorders).

People whose parents lived in areas exposed to radiation from 1949 to 1989 had a higher risk of hypertension

Some 100,000 people in the area are still affected by radiation

Studies show elevated risks of cancer, and one of them suggests that the effects of radiation on cardiovascular health might be passed down from one generation to the next.

“Nevada Semipalatinsk” anti-nuclear movement

The “Nevada Semipalatinsk”

anti-nuclear movement in Kazakhstan was formed in 1989 and was one of the first major anti-nuclear movements on the territory of the former USSR


To destroy all nuclear test polygons on the territory of Kazakhstan, create public control over industrial wastes, and establish an ecological map of the region

Movement's agenda

- organization of actions directed towards the complete prohibition of nuclear tests, the banning of nuclear, missiles and other types of weapons of mass destruction and the illegal burial of radioactive and toxic wastes
- protection and revitalization of nature, man, culture
- protection of human rights
- problems of ecology at the national and international levels 

Some interesting facts

In 1989, the number of explosions at the Semipalatinsk test site was reduced to 7 out of the planned 18. The last one was on October 19
The most active participants in this movement were medical scientists, graduates of KazNMU
The movement took part in demonstrations, protest marches, peace marches in Kazakhstan, Russia, America and Japan
Many cities and regions of Kazakhstan, also Russia, the USA, Italy, Japan, Turkey and other countries established its branches
Thanks to Suleimenov, the “Nevada Semipalatinsk” anti-nuclear movement was included in the World Memory of the World Register by the decision of UNESCO

Decree “On the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site”

Through the efforts of the “Nevada Semipalatinsk” movement, nuclear tests in Kazakhstan were stopped:

on August 29, 1991, President of the Kazakh SSR Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the Decree “On the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site”, having gained great respect in the world community

In 2016 Kazakhstan and the whole world celebrated the 25th anniversary of closure of Semipalatinsk Test Site 

International Atomic Energy Agency bank of low-enriched uranium

This year First President of Kazakhstan – Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev has been recognised for his efforts in achieving a world free of nuclear tests

Initiator of giving the status – Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation
Where? At the special session of the UN General Assembly