On International Day Against Nuclear Tests: Kazakhstan and Russia Offer Proposals
August 30, 2016
United Nations News Center & TIME Magazine & TASS
In 2009, the UN General Assembly declared 29 August the International Day against Nuclear Tests. The date marks the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan in 1991. The Soviet Union detonated hundreds of nuclear devices over a period of 40 years at Semipalatinsk. While that stopped when the test site closed 25 years ago, radiation levels are still as much as ten times higher in the soil and water and cancers have leveled the population.
UN Secretary-General's Message on
The International Day Against Nuclear Tests
Ban Ki-moon / United Nations
UNITED NATIONS (August 29, 2016) -- For nearly a decade as United Nations Secretary-General, I have witnessed many of the worst problems in the world as well as our collective ability to respond in ways that at times seemed impossible. Our ambitious new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change have demonstrated the power of political will to break longstanding deadlocks.
On this International Day against Nuclear Tests, I call on the world to summon a sense of solidarity commensurate with the urgent need to end the dangerous impasse on this issue.
Today marks a quarter of a century since the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, ground zero for more than 450 nuclear tests. The victims there are joined by others scattered across Central Asia, North Africa, North America and the South Pacific.
A prohibition on all nuclear testing will end this poisonous legacy. It will boost momentum for other disarmament measures by showing that multilateral cooperation is possible, and it will build confidence for other regional security measures, including a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
When I visited Semipalatinsk in 2010, I saw the toxic damage -- but I also witnessed the resolve of the victims and survivors. I share their determination to strive for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Since its adoption 20 years ago by the General Assembly, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has yet to enter into force. Given the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons to our collective human and environmental security -- even our very existence -- we must reject this stalemate.
I urge Member States to act now. Those States whose ratification is required to bring the Treaty into force should not wait for others. Even one ratification can act as a circuit breaker. All States that have not done so should sign and ratify because every ratification strengthens the norm of universality and shines a harsher spotlight on the countries that fail to act.
On this Day, I call on all countries and peoples to work for the CTBT's entry into force as soon as possible so that we may advance toward a nuclear-weapon-free world.
On World Day, Top UN Officials Call for
Prompt Entry into Force of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
United Nations News Center
(August 29, 2016) -- Marking the International Day against Nuclear Tests, senior United Nations officials today called for the entry into force of a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments.
"Today marks a quarter of a century since the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, ground zero for more than 450 nuclear tests," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. "The victims there are joined by others scattered across Central Asia, North Africa, North America and the South Pacific."
"A prohibition on all nuclear testing will end this poisonous legacy," Mr. Ban added, noting that it will boost momentum for other disarmament measures by showing that multilateral cooperation is possible, and it will build confidence for other regional security measures, including a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
In 2009, the UN General Assembly declared 29 August the International Day against Nuclear Tests through the unanimous adoption of a resolution to that effect.
It also called for increasing awareness and education "about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world." The resolution's adoption also commemorated the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan in 1991.
In his message, Mr. Ban also noted that this year marked the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) by the Assembly.
"Given the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons to our collective human and environmental security -- even our very existence -- we must reject this stalemate," said the UN chief.
To date, 183 countries have signed the treaty and 164 have ratified CTBT. For the treaty to enter into force, ratification is required from the so-called Annex 2 States. Of these, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States, have yet to ratify it.
"Those States whose ratification is required to bring the treaty into force should not wait for others. Even one ratification can act as a circuit breaker," Mr. Ban said in his message, calling on all countries and peoples to work for CTBT's prompt entry into force on the path towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.
He also stressed the power of political will that can break longstanding deadlocks, as demonstrated in the adoption of ambitious new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, in his message for the Day, said that CTBT must also be seen as "an important tool in our endeavour to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons," adding his voice to the call on those States which have not yet done so to sign and ratify CTBT to enable its entry into force.
Mr. Lykketoft also noted that moratoriums on nuclear testing have had a positive impact on the international security environment, and he recalled the need for continued systematic and sustained efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally and fulfil the ultimate objective of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
Mr. Lykketoft noted that to enhance awareness and education about the effects of nuclear test explosions and the need for their cessation, he will convene an informal General Assembly plenary meeting on Wednesday at the UN Headquarters.
Why the International Day Against Nuclear Tests Is Special This Year
Julia Zorthian / TIME Magazine
The Soviet Union detonated hundreds of nuclear devices over a period of 40 years at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan -- but all of that stopped when the test site closed 25 years ago, on Aug. 29, 1991.
Fallout from the mushroom clouds above ground and explosions below ground did severe damage over time on the surrounding populations, especially in the town of Semipalatinsk (now Semey) almost 100 mi. east of the site.
Radiation levels are still as much as ten times higher in the soil and water near the town, and babies were born with deformities during and after the period of testing. Cancer leveled the population so that, according to a 2016 report, more than half of the town does not live to 60.
Now, the United Nations recognizes the International Day Against Nuclear Tests every year on that date to commemorate the decision by Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev to shut the site down.
"Every effort should be made to end nuclear tests in order to avert devastating and harmful effects on the lives and health of people and the environment," states U.N. Resolution 64/35, which the General Assembly accepted in 2009 to establish the Day Against Nuclear Tests.
Even in 1961, TIME printed an explainer on nuclear damage that explained that fallout "can cause cancer, leukemia, sterility and mutations in future generations." But underground testing continued at Semipalatinsk until 1989. Eventually an anti-nuclear movement called Nevada Semipalatinsk grew, bringing thousands to it protests against the nuclear site in 1989.
And Semipalatinsk was more than just one site: its closing in 1991 was symbolic, amidst the crumbling of the Soviet Union. When it was announced that the test site would close, TIME noted that it was a good sign for a world concerned about what would happen to the nuclear devices and site in formerly-Soviet regions:
Most experts, though, believe the threat of atomic war was minimal during the coup and will probably remain so even if the Union dissolves. One reason is that virtually all the USSR's strategic nuclear arms -- the missile- and bomber-borne kinds that threaten other nations -- are in just four republics: Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia and Kazakhstan. Of the four, Russia holds 80% or more of the strategic nukes . . .
Two other republics with strategic nukes have gone still further toward yielding control. Both Ukraine and Belorussia have proclaimed themselves nuclear-free zones, and Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev decreed the closing of the underground nuclear testing center at Semipalatinsk, though he has not yet agreed to give up the weapons.
The International Day Against Nuclear Tests serves as a reminder of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that the U.N. adopted, but has not yet entered into force. The treaty would ban all nuclear testing or explosions in any setting, yet eight states in the world have not signed or ratified it yet: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.
Kazakhstan Leader Calls to
Reduce and Fully Ban Nuclear Weapons
ASTANA (August 29, 2016) -- Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has proposed to set up a crisis management system in relations between major powers and assume new obligations on international nuclear safety treaties.
"We need to create a crisis management system in relations between major powers," he said speaking at an international conference "Building a world without nuclear weapons." "It is also important to tighten control over the proliferation of conventional weapons and new military technologies."
Nazarbayev called on all governments to undertake new obligations to further strengthen international treaties and institutions forming the basis of nuclear safety. "I also ask all parliamentarians representing their countries and peoples today to take an active part in this," he said.
Kazakhstan's leader pointed to the need to start a new stage in the struggle to reduce and fully ban nuclear weapons. "At the dawn of the nuclear era, prominent scientists, even those who took part in creating nuclear energy, military strategists and politicians proved that winning a war with the use of this weapon is an illusion," he emphasized.
The president warned that "the effect of adjusting to life under the sword of Damocles of a nuclear apocalypse is, unfortunately, beginning to be transmitted genetically from one generation to another."
"The 25th anniversary of Semipalatinsk nuclear test site closure is a good reason to start a new stage in the struggle to reduce and fully ban Doomsday weapons," he said. "Throughout several decades prior to this event the world was trying to lower the threshold of a nuclear danger by reducing nuclear weapons and imposing moratoriums on their use. Kazakhstan was the first to cut this Gordian knot by passing a decree on closing the world's biggest nuclear test site."
Russian Diplomat Calls for Returning
Nuclear Weapons to Producer Countries
MOSCOW (July 11, 2016) -- Return of all nuclear weapons to the territories of countries where they have been produced would be a vital contribution to world security, Russia's Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko said in an interview aired by the Rossiya 24 television news channel on Monday.
"It would be a contribution to international security if all nuclear charges were returned to the territories of countries, which possess them. This is exactly what Russia did," Grushko said commenting the US authorities' intention to offer Russia to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for another five years.
"It is necessary to bear in mind that as major nuclear players, including Russia and the United States, the role of nuclear potentials possessed by other countries will increase. Therefore, the approach will be totally different: it should be an integrated approach," Grushko said.
According to the Washington Post electronic version, US President Barack Obama plans to use his final six months in office for putting forward a number of nuclear arms control initiatives, including, possibly, to offer Russia to extend the New Start Treaty for another five years. The publication said that the US National Security Council had discussed the topic at its meetings twice over the past two weeks.
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