Abandoned Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (aka The Polygon)

Semipalatinsk nuclear test explosion (Image: Wikimedia; explosion at Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan)

By the end of World War Two, the Soviet Union was pushing its scientists to get the country’s nuclear weapons programme up to speed with the United States. These powers would soon find themselves on opposite sides in a new war. Amusing Planet reflected on the effects of scientific and military advancement taking priority over the health and safety of a country’s citizens. The results were catastrophic.

Scale model of the Semipalatinsk Test Site (Image: Kalpak Travel via Flickr; model of the Semipalatinsk Test Site)

Located in Kazakhstan, south of the Irtysh River, the 18,000-square-km Semipalatinsk Test Site (known as “The Polygon”) was among a handful of nuclear testing grounds in the USSR. The town of Semipalatinsk (later renamed Semey), with its 100,000-strong population, lay 150 km to the east. Hundreds of thousands more lived within an 80 km radius of the site, in small villages that would ultimately be impacted by the 456 nuclear tests performed in the Polygon between 1949 and 1989.

Broken ruins at the abandoned Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan (Image: Kalpak Travel via Flickr)

Those living nearby were so close that the powers-that-be would warn them when a nuclear device was about to tested. Residents were instructed to remain outside in case the shock wave demolished their homes.

(Image: Kalpak Travel via Flickr)

Even after nuclear testing drew to a close at the Semipalatinsk Test Site, an alarming number of deaths reportedly occurred from radiation-induced cancers, and numerous cases of babies born with birth defects.

In 1965, a nuclear blast was even used to create Lake Chagan, a reservoir on the eastern edge of the The Polygon ranges. Radiation from the Chagan nuclear test was detected as far away as Japan, and as Amusing Planet reports, the water remains around 100 times more radioactive than is deemed to be safe in drinking water. Not surprisingly, the 100,000 m3 volume crater is referred to as the Atomic Lake.

(Image: Kalpak Travel via Flickr; Chagan artificial lake)

The radioactive Lake Chagan in Kazakhstan, aka the Atomic Lake (Image: Bing Maps; the ‘Atomic Lake’)

Today, a memorial stands at the abandoned Semipalatinsk Test Site, alongside concrete bunkers, towers, and other decaying infrastructure left over from the days of the USSR’s Cold War nuclear testing. The memorial, known as “Stronger than Death”, is a terrifying reminder of those whose lives were damaged irreparably in the name of the nuclear weapons technology.

Keep Reading: Liquidators: Wandering the Dystopian Remnants of Chernobyl’s Rescue Vehicle Graveyard



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