The International Day Against Nuclear Tests honors all victims of nuclear tests and reminds us why nuclear testing must come to a permanent end.
Nuclear tests can cause devastating and harmful effects on human health and the environment. Although the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site closed 29 years ago, the region’s residents are still affected by the more than 450 nuclear tests conducted there by the Soviet Union.
Commemorating the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site
In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared 29 August as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests. The resolution was initiated by Kazakhstan to mark the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site on 29 August 1991.
The International Day Against Nuclear Tests is devoted to raising public awareness about the fatal consequences of nuclear explosions.
During the Cold War, a remote area on the steppe in northeast Kazakhstan became home to almost a quarter of the world’s nuclear tests. The Semipalatinsk Test Site was unoccupied, but neighboring villages still suffered from nuclear fallout and radioactive dust carried by the winds. Some inhabitants were exposed to the acute bursts from nuclear detonations, and low doses of radiation affected up to 1 million people over the course of several decades. Exposure to ionizing radiation from nuclear weapons tests has caused various genetic defects and illnesses in the region, such as birth deformities, leukemia, impotency, cancer, and PTSD. The horrific damage continues to this day as the effects of radiation can be passed down from one generation to the next.
The Semipalatinsk Test Site, Kazakhstan.
Photo credit: Center for International Security and Policy (CISC), Kazakhstan.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
In the years after 1945, both civil and political efforts were made to put an end to nuclear testing. Experiences from the Second World War and knowledge about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear testing led to the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) of 1996. Although the Treaty has not entered into force, it has established an important norm against nuclear tests. In the age of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, only three countries have carried out nuclear tests – India, Pakistan, and North-Korea. Nonetheless, a norm or a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing can never be a substitute for a comprehensive, universally binding, legal agreement.
The CTBT Organization has established a global verification system that is designed to monitor and verify compliance with the treaty. NORSAR's most important role is to be the Norwegian National Data Centre for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). It operates Norway’s field installations for the CTBT International Monitoring System and advises Norwegian authorities on matters related to compliance with the treaty. Through this work, NORSAR contributes to a safer nuclear-weapons-free world.