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article imageKazakhstan’s nuclear past: the Soviet legacy of bomb tests in an inhabited area

By Paul Wallis     Sep 1, 2007 in World
The world may not have had a nuclear war, but Kazakhstan did. Hundreds of thousands of people lived in an area called Polygon that had 456 tests including 116 above ground nuclear tests. They weren’t evacuated.
A literal “plague of birth defects” has blighted the Semipalatinsk area, near the Chinese border. The classic symptoms, birth defects, deformities, impotency, and cancers, are all over the region. The area is now impoverished, and has an extremely high suicide rate. A woman who was a child living 20 miles from a testing site reminisces about the windows blowing out when there was a test. She used to watch the mushroom clouds.
Note: this CNN article is rough on the sensitivities.
Do not watch the video if you think you might be upset after reading the text. You probably will be.
Some of the comments are also a bit irritating, too blasé for my tastes, anyway.
Testing went on for 40 years, from 1949 to 1989. The main site was shut down in 1991. The area experienced more testing than anywhere else on Earth. What used to be a desolate area is now a lot more desolate. The effects of the testing are common in the village where the video was made.
They even have a museum for the birth defects. Three generations have suffered the effects of the testing. It reminds me of the Chernobyl children’s ward.
A lady called Biken agreed to be interviewed. She was born in 1951, and shows clear, well known, signs of genetic damage. The wide set eyes are a common form of genetic malformation.
People under 40 might not know this, but there was a time when people thought this made some sort of sense. This is the heritage of what the world thought was a conflict about human aspirations for the future.
More about Kazakhstan, Nuclear testing, Health