20th Anniversary of Closure of
Semipalatinsk test site
Over 500 high-level officials, lawmakers and non-proliferation specialists from around the world gathered in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 12 October 2011 for the International Forum for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World. The meeting was organized by Kazakhstan on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the closure of the Soviet nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk. The Forum adopted a Declaration on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, calling on all States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to refrain from nuclear testing.
Let us move from ground zero to global zero – a world free of nuclear weapons for all of our children and all of our tomorrows.UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
The Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Tibor Tóth, reminded the Forum that: “The global ban on nuclear weapon testing is yet to be completed through a legally binding global norm. Though a moratorium is in effect, moratoria can never be sufficient to completely shut the door on nuclear testing. Sadly, this is another lesson history teaches us.” (see full statement)
In his address, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano emphasized Kazakhstan’s important contribution to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The closure of the Semipalatinsk test site, he said, underscored and contributed to the goals of the CTBT as well as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
On 13 October, participants travelled to the former nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk and visited local nuclear installations and research institutions promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The end of the two-day event was marked by a ceremony at the test-site memorial in Semey, the city closest to the test site, and was attended by thousands of Kazakh citizens. In his address to the ceremony, Tóth acknowledged the historic importance of the decision to close the test site and vowed to carry on the struggle to outlaw all nuclear testing worldwide.
This ceremony today reminds us that ending nuclear testing must remain a top priority for the global community.U.S. President Barack Obama
In Semey, participants visited the Medical University and the Radiological Institute, where they learned about the effects of the 456 nuclear tests conducted at Semipalatinsk. They were told how Soviet experts had carefully studied the effects of radioactive fallout on the population, but that the results had remained classified for decades and local communities were left in the dark.
According to the director of the Semey Radiological Institute, the region’s inhabitants continue to suffer in the second and third generations from cancer rates exceeding the national average by around 200%. Similarly, birth defects and suicides are disproportionately frequent.