Semipalatinsk Test Site

Semipalatinsk Test Site

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Semipalatinsk Test Site

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Description:
The Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS or Semipalatinsk-21) was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons. It is located on the steppe in northeast Kazakhstan (then the Kazakh SSR), south of the valley of the Irtysh River. The scientific buildings for the test site were located around 150 km west of the town of Semipalatinsk (later renamed Semey), near the border of East Kazakhstan Province and Pavlodar Province with most of the nuclear tests taking place at various sites further to the west and south, some as far as into Karagandy Province.

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.

History



The site was selected in 1947 by Lavrentiy Beria, political head of the Soviet atomic bomb project (Beria falsely claimed the vast 18,000 kmĀ² steppe was "uninhabited"). Gulag labour was employed to build the primitive test facilities, including the laboratory complex in the northeast corner on the southern bank of the Irtysh River. The first Soviet bomb test, Operation First Lightning (nicknamed Joe One by the Americans) was conducted in 1949 from a tower at the Semipalatinsk Test Site, scattering fallout on nearby villages (which Beria had neglected to...
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