At a gathering to mark the International Day against Nuclear Tests, held in Astana, Kazakhstan on 26 August 2010, the IAEA expressed its commitment to the Kazakhstani government and its people to assist in rehabilitating and developing the closed, Soviet-era nuclear test at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, which was, in part, heavily contaminated by radioactivity.
Addressing the commemorative meeting, Werner Burkart, IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Sciences and Applications, explained the IAEA experts´ multi-year role in strengthening Kazakhstan´s capacity to conduct radiological measurements in the environment. Such assessments are crucial for planning the site´s remediation.
Burkart said that several United Nations agencies, programmes and funds are contributing to making rehabilitation a reality "so that the local population can again make full economic use of this area." The Semipalatinsk site covers more than 18 500 square kilometres.
Burkart noted that the IAEA´s initial assessment identified" different pockets of high-level contamination." Since the local population and their grazing cattle could be inadvertently exposed to high levels of radioactive contamination, he urged authorities to appropriately mark and secure contaminated areas.
On behalf of the IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, Burkart also assured the Kazakhstani government that the IAEA will continue to help map and assess the contamination risks at the site.
He commended the Kazakhstani Government´s effort to conduct radiological measurements in the environment as part of its efforts to address the problem of the former test site.
The International Day Against Nuclear Tests will be observed for the first time on 29 August 2010. The United Nations established the International Day to call for an end to nuclear tests that have had a devastating effect on the health and livelihoods of the the surrounding people in the vicinity.