In Kazakhstan, UN Chief Urges Global Nuclear Disarmament

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a strong call for the world to make meaningful progress towards nuclear disarmament today as he visited the former Soviet nuclear weapons test site in eastern Kazakhstan.

“Kazakhstan has shown extraordinary leadership in nuclear disarmament. In 1991, President Nazarbayev made a courageous decision to shut down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and renounce nuclear weapons. That was a visionary step… a true declaration of independence,” Ban Ki-moon said at visit the former test site where the Soviet Union conducted more than 450 nuclear tests with radiation affecting the lives of 1.5 million people in Kazakhstan. “I urge leaders of all countries, especially nuclear weapons states, to follow Kazakhstan's example. For inspiration they should look to Kazakhstan's example,” he added.

Ban Ki-moon arrived in Kazakhstan on his first official visit on April 6, landing at Semey, the new name of the city of Semipalatinsk.

He was then taken by a helicopter to Kurchatov, the administrative centre of the Soviet notorious nuclear weapons testing programme, and the former nuclear test site itself.

The test site was closed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev on August 29, 1991, in a defiant and courageous gesture as the Soviet Union was still alive, and the test site was stilled managed by the Soviet government.

A visit to the former test site by the UN Secretary General is a vivid confirmation of Kazakhstan's strong contribution to reducing global nuclear threats and the process of freeing our planet from these deadly weapons.

Kazakhstan was the first to set an example for the world, completely and entirely closing one of the world's largest nuclear test sites, and voluntarily renouncing the world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal.

In December 2009, the UN General Assembly unanimously accepted a resolution proclaiming August 29, the day when in 1991 President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree on the closure of Semipalatinsk Test Site, as the ‘International Day against Nuclear Tests'.

In Kurchatov, Ban Ki-moon got familiar with the exhibition at the Museum of the Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology of the National Nuclear Center, founded in 1972 on the basis of the scientific and experimental unit of the test site.

The exhibition reflects the history of the creation of the Soviet nuclear arsenal and consists of more than 100 models, photo materials and other artifacts brought from the test site, as well as instruments and equipment used in the preparation and carrying out of nuclear experiments. The UN delegation also visited the Tokamak experimental thermonuclear material-testing unit in Kurchatov, created for conducting scientific research and testing structural materials of thermonuclear reactors.

Ban Ki-moon visits Kazakhstan at the invitation of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. They are set to meet in Astana on April 7. The purpose of the visit is to strengthen political contacts, discuss with the leadership of the country current issues of bilateral cooperation and international issues in light of Kazakhstan's Chairmanship in the OSCE.