Atomic Deserts A Survey of the World's Radioactive No-Go Zones

The Soviet nuclear testing site in present-day Kazakhstan is just one of many places in the world that remain dangerously radioactive to this day.

The Soviet nuclear testing site in present-day Kazakhstan is just one of many places in the world that remain dangerously radioactive to this day.

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Part 8: A Nuclear No Man's Land


Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, now known as Semey, was host to the main nuclear test site of the former Soviet Union. Some 506 nuclear tests were carried out there during the Cold War. Since the closure of the site, the United States has invested more than $600 million (€420 million) in cleaning up the contaminated 18,500 square kilometers (7,142 square miles). The US has also invested $100 million (€70 million) in trying to better secure the site -- there are fears terrorists could obtain radioactive material there in order to build so-called dirty bombs.

The Kazakh government had hoped to make the site available for agricultural use once again. But some areas are still so contaminated with plutonium that they have to be covered with huge, two-meter thick steel plates to contain the radiation.

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