Stories: Nuclear Materials

  • Kazakhstan’s Lesson for Iran

    Due to the diplomatic deal reached in Geneva, the theocracy running Iran has half a year to decide if its potential nuclear-weapons program would make the regime more, or less, secure. Sure, if the country keeps its capability to weaponize, it may be harder for regional rivals or Western powers to push for regime change. But internal collapse...

  • JFK’s Most Underrated Achievement

    The spot where the Soviet Union blew up its first atomic bomb is an expansive, gently rolling part of the steppe in northeastern Kazakhstan. Between 1949 and 1989, the Soviet Union conducted more than 450 nuclear tests, over 100 of which were atmospheric, meaning the device was detonated on the ground or in the air. When I visited in August with a group...

  • Nuclear Steppe

      1. In north-east Kazakhstan, close to the Russian border, lies Kurchatov city, a small, rundown town that was once one of the USSR’s most closely guarded secrets. Kurchatov housed many of the USSR’s top scientists as they developed and tested the weapons that comprised the Soviet nuclear arsenal. The city appeared on no public maps...

  • The Cost of Being the World’s No. 1 Uranium Producer

    If you make a toxic mess under one of the most isolated parts of the planet, does it matter if you don't clean it up? Does it make a difference if that mess will be there for thousands of years? Scientists are asking those questions as Kazakhstan has steadily risen to become the world's No. 1 uranium producer, surpassing...

  • Secrets of Semipalatinsk: How Nuclear Theft Was Averted in Central Asia

    Anastacia Kyseleva saw her first atomic mushroom cloud from the fields near her village. Residents of Kanonerka, located near the Russian border in eastern Kazakhstan, had only heard the mysterious explosions from previous tests at the nearby Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk. This time, in 1956, soldiers came and ordered everyone outside – a move experts now suspect was made...

  • Former Soviet Nuclear Test Site Still Holds Mysteries

    The nuclear testing ground of the former Soviet Union is a vast, barren area close to the size of Lake Ontario that continues to hold some amount of security risk. During the Cold War, hundreds of atmospheric and underground atomic weapons tests were conducted here at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in northeastern Kazakhstan, near the Russian border. Nuclear...