Health impacts of Soviet nuclear tests

nuclear-victims

U.S. Russia and Kazakhstan secured plutonium before terrorists got it

The Post reported Sunday that hundreds of pounds of plutonium, enough for dozens of nuclear weapons, lay buried for years in Kazakhstan at the Semipalatinsk test site after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. After prodding by scientists, the United States, Russia and Kazakhstan entombed the plutonium in concrete so it could not be seized by scavengers, terrorists or states with malevolent intent. (The Washington Post)

The Gulag labor

The Semipalatinsk Test Site, also known as The Polygon, was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. It is located on the steppe in northeast Kazakhstan.
The Soviet Union conducted 456 nuclear tests at Semipalatinsk from 1949 until 1989 with little regard for their effect on the local people or environment. The full impact of radiation exposure was hidden for many years by Soviet authorities and has only come to light since the test site closed in 1991.
The site was selected in 1947 by Beria, political head of the Soviet atomic bomb project (Beria falsely claimed the vast steppe was “uninhabited”). Gulag labor was employed to build the primitive test facilities, including the laboratory complex.
After some of the tests, radioactive material remained on the now abandoned area, including significant amounts of plutonium.(Wikipedia)

Health impacts

The full impact of radiation exposure was hidden for many years by Soviet authorities. The general consensus of health studies conducted at the site since it was closed is that radioactive fallout from nuclear testing had a direct impact on the health of about 200,000 local residents. Specifically, scientists have linked higher rates of different types of cancer to post-irradiation effects. Likewise, several studies have explored the correlation between radiation exposure and thyroid abnormalities.

Galina Toktalieva

Kyrgyzstan-born author residing in Graz, Austria

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