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The Kazakh role in ridding the world of nuclear weapons

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The Kazakh role in ridding the world of nuclear weapons

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Reflect on what you know about Kazakhstan and your list is likely to include oil, Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional character Borat or the fact the country has a space launch site.

But how many of you had nuclear weapons?

Did you know the country has been dubbed a ‘global leader’ in the fight to rid the world of them?

It is a legacy of its past in the Soviet Union, from which it declared independence in the early 1990s.

Four decades earlier, the Soviets opened a nuclear test site near the city of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan.

From 1949 to 1989, 456 nuclear tests were conducted at the site.

Some 1.5 million Kazakhs suffered radiation-related cancers and physical deformities as a result of the tests, according to the ATOM Project.

One of them was Karipbek Kuyukov, who was born without arms but went on to become a renowned artist and anti-nuclear activist.

It is perhaps unsurprising that, after declaring independence in 1991, Kazakhstan became one of the first countries to give up nuclear weapons.

Today, it is still a key issue for the country.

In a speech in March, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear weapons was not fulfilling its purpose and that it was ‘just a matter of time’ before they fall into the hands of terrorists.

Today, Kazakhstan is hosting a major international conference on the subject, whose guests include the United Nations.

The two-day get together will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site.

August 29 is also the International Day Against Nuclear Tests.

Nuclear need-to-knows

  • Nine countries have nuclear weapons: US, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. (ICAN)
  • A further five countries host nuclear weapons: Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Turkey, say ICAN.
  • It’s estimated the number of nuclear weapons has reduced significantly from 70,300 in 1986 to 15,350 in 2016.
  • According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),the nine “nuclear states” are reducing the number of warheads but there is a new race to modernize the nuclear arsenal.
  • Nuclear weapons have been used twice in warfare, on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing more than 210,000 people.
  • There have been at least 2,053 nuclear test explosions. The biggest nuclear weapons test was the Tsar Bomba in 1961.

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