International Day against Nuclear Tests 2012

In December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 29 August as the International Day against Nuclear Tests (see also UN Website and message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon). This day was proposed by Kazakhstan as it marks both the closure of the former Soviet Semipalatinsk Test Site in 1991 in modern-day Kazakhstan and the date of the first Soviet nuclear test conducted there in 1949.

The first Soviet nuclear test was conducted on 29 August 1949.

According to the resolution establishing it, the International Day against Nuclear Tests aims to prevent more of the “devastating and harmful effects on the lives and health of people and the environment” caused by nuclear testing. Over 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted since the very first nuclear explosion, the Trinity test on 16 July 1945 in New Mexico, United States. Together, the fallout from these tests dwarfed the amount of radioactivity released into the environment from any nuclear accident.

Nuclear testing caused a global rise in levels of atmospheric radioactivity (source: WDR).

The importance of bringing the [Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty] CTBT into force cannot be overemphasized. The world has endured over 2,000 nuclear tests since 1945. Such tests poison the environment—and they poison the political climate as well. They breed mistrust, isolation and fear.

The servicemen involved and people living close to the test sites often paid with their health, some even with their lives; see chapter effects of nuclear testing. Some of the world’s over 60 nuclear test sites (see interactive map) continue to be contaminated.

Servicemen often played the role of guinea pigs in the first decades of nuclear testing.

Nuclear testing also poisoned the political environment, leading to an arms race with ever more destructive weapons. The 1961 Soviet Tsar Bomba had an explosive power of around 4,000 Hiroshima bombs detonated simultaneously.

Click for graphic yield comparison (not included: the 50 megaton Tsar Bomba).

Today is a day to commemorate the victims of nuclear testing and to learn for the future: Are we serious about nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation? About working for a world free of nuclear weapons? The litmus test will be whether or not we will succeed in finally banning all nuclear tests.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the international instrument to end all nuclear testing in a verifiable way. Nuclear testing has essentially screeched to a halt with the adoption of the CTBT in 1996, which forged an international zero-tolerance stance against nuclear testing: The handful of nuclear tests conducted after 1996 (by India, Pakistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea - DPRK) received universal condemnation and unanimously adopted UN Security Council sanctions.
Currently 183 States have signed the Treaty and 157 have ratified it (see interactive map). However for the CTBT to enter into force, eight States - from a list of 44 defined as nuclear technology holders - have yet to ratify to meet the Treaty’s stringent entry into force requirement: China, DPRK, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.


International Forum for a Nuclear Weapons Free World in Astana, Kazakhstan

The International Forum for a Nuclear Weapons Free World opens on 29 August 2012 in Astana, Kazakhstan. It marks the 21st anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk Test Site and the country’s continuing efforts towards the elimination of nuclear threats. Lassina Zerbo, Director of the CTBTO's International Data Centre Division, will address the conference ( speech - PDF).

The ATOM PROJECT, an international campaign to end nuclear testing, was launched at the Astana forum.

General Assembly to mark Observance of the International Day against Nuclear Tests

On 6 September 2012, the UN General Assembly will hold a special session to commemorate the International Day against Nuclear Tests. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will address the meeting, which is being convened by the General Assembly’s President and organized in cooperation with Kazakhstan.