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Chemical toxicants at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site


Research of chemical toxicants influence on general ecological situation formation at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-OTH/Other/Environment
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Torikoshi M

Leading Institute
National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakstan / Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kazakstan, Almaty

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology, Kazakstan, Kurchatov


  • Japan Atomic Energy Agency / Fukushima Environmental Safety Center, Japan, Fukushima

Project summary

Currently there are more than 25 operating or decommissioned nuclear sites in the world. In total, nuclear countries conducted more than two thousand nuclear explosions. The issue of nuclear tests influence on the environment and population living close to the places of explosions was and remains one of the major problems of radiobiology. The activities in this area are being performed in many countries including Kazakhstan with the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site being on its territory.
The Semipalatinsk nuclear test site (SNTS) territory has been well studied. Nearly all major sources of radioactive contamination, the main routes and the mechanisms of current and potential spreading of radioactive substances are identified. One of the most important results of work is the understanding that part of STS is "clean" and can be used in the national economy.
We shall note that radiation is not the only factor effecting population health. Often, the quality of the environment objects (particularly water) is of significant importance, characterized, in particular, by the indicators such as content of chlorides, sulfites, total salinity and toxic trace elements.
The studies have revealed the areas with high content of chemical elements, which are highly toxic and carcinogenic in addition to radioactive contamination at SNTS, and their consequences cause changes at the cellular level and gene mutations similar to those under the influence of ionizing radiation. The anthropogenic sources of toxic elements income to the ecosystem are very perse. The most important at SNTS territory include the organizations of non-ferrous and ferrous metallurgy, coal and oil consuming power plants, vehicles, waste from livestock facilities, sewage water sediments, mineral and organic fertilizers, mining, chemical industries and others. The natural sources for the SNTS include the ore field formed by the group of greisen bodies with tungsten mineralization, on the western slope of the Degelen mountains; little-studied tungsten-molybdenum ore appearance areas and Maylykara and Karadzhal deposit, located in the northern part of the Degelen mountain range and represented by magnetite, garnet-fluorite and other skarns.
For the present these studies have the episodical character, they are non-consistent, not allowing us to make definite conclusions, to make forecast estimations of toxic elements distribution and to assess their impact on the health of people living in areas close to the test site.
It is expected to perform systematic research of SNTS water sources quality within the framework of the proposed research activities and to assess their impact on the health of people living in the immediate vicinity of the SNTS. This will reveal the contribution of drinking water quality to the general chemical and radiation load and to assess more accurately the negative effect on the residents’ health due to the presence of high background radiation. Similar studies have not been performed previously in the world. This enhances the importance of the proposed works considering the large number of nuclear test sites in the world. The results obtained in the framework of the project can be used to understand the impact of radiation exposure on human health. The methodology of assessing radiation exposure, involved in the project, may be used for conducting similar research activities in other sites of nuclear testing.


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