During the Cold War, the Semipalatinsk Polygon covering 18,500 square kilometers on the steppe of northeast Kazakhstan, was the site of a secret Soviet nuclear testing programme. Through four decades until the early nineties, over four hundred nuclear weapons were test detonated in the atmosphere and underground in preparation for a war that never happened. The locals were used as guinea pigs to test the effects of radiation on human populations. Villagers living close by were given virtually no protection or warning of the dangers of radiation. Today, only the frenetic chirp of a Geiger counter warns us of the invisible radiation that makes this nuclear wasteland so dangerous that scientists hesitate to spend any amount of time there. Yet, almost two million villagers spend their entire lives in and around the affected area â€“drinking ground water, growing crops, and grazing their livestock off the highly irradiated land.
My name is Ed Ou. I am a student.