The Atom Project Launches In Support of The UN International Day Against Nuclear Testing

Astana 29 August 2012. On August 28-29, Astana hosted more than 200 foreign participants from more than 75 countries and more than 20 international organizations, including the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the conference “From a Nuclear Test Ban to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World.”

The Atom ProjectAs part of the program, over 140 participants went to Semey and Kurchatov, East Kazakhstan, where the first day of the conference took place. In Kurchatov, the guests visited the National Nuclear Centre, one of the country’s flagship scientific enterprises. In Semey, the delegation got acquainted with the city’s scientific, health, education, and cultural institutions. A mass meeting near the monument “Stronger than Death”, which commemorates the 21st anniversary of closing-down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, was the culmination of the day. The participants of the Conference laid a foundation capsule of the future Museum of Peace.

Among the politicians, scientists, experts and parliamentary representatives gathered at the conference were: Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventative Diplomacy for Central Asia Miroslav Jenca; Chairwoman of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of Russia Valentina Matvienko; German Minister of Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle; U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega; and Douglas Roche, founder and representative of the Middle Powers Initiative.

In his opening address on August 29, President Nursultan Nazarbayev recalled that the International Day against Nuclear Tests was inaugurated by the UN at the initiative of Kazakhstan – the first country in history to close its nuclear testing site. This followed four decades during which Kazakhstan endured almost half of all nuclear tests carried out across the world. President Nazarbayev reminded the conference of the lethal legacy: “from day to day the radiation poisoned our steppes, rivers and lakes, slowly killing all life in the area. This nuclear Evil destroyed the lives and health of over 1.5 million Kazakhstanis living in the vicinity of the test site. The effects of the nuclear tests are being felt to this day.”

Nazarbayev also suggested creating a global antinuclear parliamentary assembly. “Parliamentarians from all countries of the world are present at the conference today. That is why this forum can be called a prototype of the global antinuclear parliamentary assembly. I suggest considering the establishment of such an institute,” President Nazarbayev said.

The President urged a focus on building a nuclear-weapon free world and mentioned Kazakhstan’s latest initiative. «We have an opportunity to remind the world once again of tragic events caused by nuclear tests to prompt global community to more decisive actions on complete and unalterable prohibition. To this end Kazakhstan has launched The ATOM Project, which stands for ‘Abolish Tests. Our Mission’,” said the President. The ATOM Project is an international petition campaign designed to unify global public opinion against nuclear weapons testing.

The Head of State described the closure of the Semipalatinsk Test Site as marking the start of a new era of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament around the world. One of the most significant steps forward has been the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), set out by UN decree 16 years ago.

However, Nursultan Nazarbayev also cautioned that the non-proliferation movement has by no means become universal, with a number of new nuclear and threshold states which have not joined the CTBT and similarly, some countries of the official “nuclear club” failing to follow the USA and Russia in their 2010 Prague agreement to continue reducing the amount of strategic offensive arms. Last year’s disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, said the President, clearly demonstrates the potential dangers of outdated nuclear security technology and the need to establish global control over the development of nuclear energy programs.

President Nazarbayev emphasized that the need to rid the world of nuclear weapons is all the more pressing because of the enormous potential for nuclear energy to bring positive benefits to humankind in the 21st century:
“Many countries resolve their poverty and unemployment problems by implementing peaceful nuclear energy projects, under the strict control of the UN and IAEA, of course. That is why our position on a nuclear-free world has nothing in common with a fear of radiation or a utopian desire to once and for all ‘forget’ the secret of atomic energy. A non-nuclear world means a comprehensive ban on the use of nuclear energy for military means. This is the essence of my proposal to draw up and adopt a universal declaration for a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Three key measures needed to achieve this aim were outlined by the President: firstly, the CTBT needs to come into force; secondly, the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) must be gradually brought into effect with the participation of all nuclear states; thirdly, a mechanism must be developed to encourage states that have essentially turned away from military nuclear programs, to continue on this path.

President Nazarbayev concluded by urging all conference participants and everyone around the world to support all of these endeavors and to make a nuclear-weapons-free world the most important goal of humankind.
Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guido Westerwelle reaffirmed during the conference Germany’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. When speaking at the conference, he said that an important step to a nuclear-free world was a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing. Germany’s main goal as the third largest donor to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test- Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) was that nuclear tests be banned worldwide.
In his address to the participants of the conference U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega noted that “unlike any other government, the Republic of the Marshall Islands shares the same history and experience as Kazakhstan, having also been used as a nuclear testing ground during the Cold War” where in 1946-1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests with an equivalent yield of 7,000 Hiroshima bombs.
Faleomavaega stressed that some twenty years ago, “President Nazarbayev emerged to champion the cause of a nuclear weapons free world, and no other leader before or since has done what he has done to advance the rights of the human person by promoting nuclear disarmament among possessor states and preventing proliferation to new states.” The Co-chairman of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament Gareth Evans said when visiting Kurchatov that Kazakhstan has become an example for the whole world by abandoning the nuclear weapon.

The Member of UK House of Lords John Anderson, Viscount Waverley, added that the courageous step of Nursultan Nazarbayev deserves support and that the future of humanity should be of concern to everyone. As a result of the two-day conference, parliamentarians, mayors, disarmament experts, as well as civil society representatives adopted an appeal to the Parliaments and Governments around the world.

Jointly organized by the Majilis of the Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nazarbayev Centre and the international organization of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), the conference was held as part of political and educational activities across the world to mark August 29, the UN-recognized International Day against Nuclear Tests. It aimed to capture the world’s attention and underscore the need for a unified attempt in preventing further nuclear weapons testing. The day also marks the anniversary of the closure of the Soviet nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk twenty-one years ago.

More Information

  1. Parliamentary Appeal for Nuclear Abolition: From a Nuclear Test Ban to a Nuclear Weapons
  2. Statement of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev
  3. Other statements