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Nuclear weapons testing infrastructure eliminated in Kazakhstan

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Sept. 11, 2012, 10:38 a.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Interfax-Ukraine

A specialist walks near equipment housings in nuclear explosion site P-1, in Semipalatinsk, some 50km from Kurchatov-city and 700 km from Astana, on August 22, 2011. A total of 456 nuclear tests were conducted at the test site over 42 years until Kazakhstan shut down the facility twenty years ago on August 29, 1991, making it the first country to voluntarily give up nuclear weapons. The provincial and otherwise unremarkable town of Semey, known as Semipalatinsk until four years ago, lies 150 kilometres (93 miles) west of the 18,400 square kilometre (7,100 square mile) nuclear testing site where the arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States began.
© AFP

AILMATY - The entire workload to eliminate the infrastructure for testing nuclear weapons at the former Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground in Eastern Kazakhstan has been done this year, Erlan Batyrbekov, director of the National Nuclear Center's Nuclear Physics Institute has announced.

"This year we have done the entire workload to eliminate the powerful infrastructure for testing nuclear weapons at the former Semipalatinsk testing ground," he said in an interview with Vecherny Almaty newspaper, published on Tuesday.

One hundred and eighty-one wells have been closed down in the Delegen mountainous area and 13 unused testing wells at the Balapan sector, and barriers have been built to isolate the nuclear wastes.

"Access to nuclear wastes and to related 'sensitive' information has been blocked," Batyrbekov said.

The national nuclear center continues doing large-scale radiological research and fulfilling rehabilitation programs at the former testing ground, he also said.

The best national system of control over nuclear tests in the Commonwealth of Independent States has been set up in Kazakhstan, he said.

"Nuclear explosions carried out in North Korea in 2006 and 2009 were registered and identified with the use of this system," Batyrbekov said.

The world's largest Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground was in operation in Kazakhstan in 1949 to 1989, where 500 nuclear tests were conducted. A national nuclear center was set up at the former testing ground in 1992.

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