Kazakhstan has become the first country to shift to peaceful use of atom. The renunciation of the world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal and closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Testing Site underlie the formation of a positive image of the country in the entire world. "This step turned out to be an important tool of foreign policy and diplomacy of Kazakhstan," says Doctor of Economics of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs Roman Vakulchuk in an interview with Kazinform.
“The closure of the nuclear testing site is a unique example of that how we should move towards global demilitarization and nuclear-weapon-free world. In this regard, Kazakhstan’s experience in the fight with nuclear non-proliferation must serve as an a example for many countries,” the expert says. In his opinion, the establishment of the Low-Enriched Nuclear Fuel Bank in Kazakhstan in 2015, under the UN aegis, is a continuation of the Kazakh President’s peace-ensuring policy.
According to Roman Vakulchuk, the closure of the testing site became a remarkable event in the policy of peace conducted by Kazakhstan. Although 25 years have passed since then, its heritage and consequences still exist.
“The Semipalatinsk Nuclear Testing Site is a unique place compared to others. SNTS is the only place which can be visited by researchers, journalists and experts. Since 1991, thousands of people have visited it for studying the nuclear tests’ consequences. A plenty of researches have been conducted and hundreds of scientific articles and reports and books have been published. Several research centres have been established like the Research Institute for Radiation Medicine and Ecology in Semey as well as the Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology in Kurchatov. Biology, medicine and genetics, physics, chemistry and other sciences gain new results and data on the influence of atom on human body and environment there,” he clarifies.
As the expert noted, the research potential of the SNTS has not been used in full and the site itself could be a global centre for nuclear science in future.
“We should further develop this potential in cooperation with the international community, since SNTS is one of a few sources of reliable data about large-scale humanitarian and ecological consequences of nuclear tests. Even today, radiation impacts physical and mental health of the people living in the East Kazakhstan region. Although, the ecological situation on the SNTS has been slightly improved and is controlled, it requires constant monitoring and observation,” R.Vakulchuk adds.
The expert touched upon also the governmental support rendered to all those affected by radiation. 1,323,000 citizens of the region have been recognized as the victims of the nuclear tests since 1991. 1,057,000 of them have been issued special IDs confirming their status. According to R.Vakulchuk, social protection of the population proves that the government realizes immensity and complexity of its nuclear heritage which will affect the life of the country and entire planet for decades in future.
“The people visiting the SNTS have dual impressions. On the one hand, they realize that the testing site does not impose any threat as they have supposed before. On the other hand, the horrifying force and trace of nuclear weapons always remain in the place they touched. And despite this, the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Testing Site infuses us with a hope that the world will renounce the nuclear weapons and the mankind will remember the closure of the SNTS as a milestone in the history, which laid the foundation of this process,” the researcher concludes.