The ATOM Project is an international initiative to build global support for a permanent end to nuclear weapons testing and the total abolition of nuclear weapons. It was launched at a parliamentary assembly in Astana, Kazakhstan on August 29, 2012, the UN International Day Against Nuclear Tests, established in recognition of the closing of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site on that day in 1991 by the president of Kazakhstan.
Seeking to unite global public opinion about the documented catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons testing – particularly the 450 nuclear tests conducted in Kazakhstan between 1949 and 1991 that adversely affected the health and lives of nearly two million people, the Project recognizes that in recent decades the cause of abolishing nuclear weapons and weapons testing, and the awareness of the fundamental dangers they pose to life on the planet have become superseded by other humanitarian and environmental issues.
The Project believes the time has come to revive among governments and publics around the world an awareness of how dangerous and appalling the consequences of the testing and retention of nuclear arsenals has been, and of the threats that their continued possession poses to the human race.
The goals of the Project were articulated well by ATOM Project’s Honorary Ambassador Karipbek Kuyukov from Kazakhstan, a survivor of the effects of nuclear tests.
Fifty years ago, Karipbek was born in a small village, just miles from
the place where more than 450 nuclear weapons tests conducted at the former Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons test site. Those tests exposed his parents
to radiation and resulted in Karipbek being born without arms.
Having overcome many obstacles, he has devoted his life and art to making sure that no one else suffers the devastating effects of nuclear weapons testing.
Today Karipbek Kuyukov is Kazakhstan’s renowned artist whose works have been shown around the world.
Through his painting he offers a glimpse into his own struggles and motivation saying he has a lot to say to the world.
Karipbek Shares His Story
“My name is Karipbek Kuyukov. I was born in the village of Yegyndybulak, which is located 100 kilometres away from the Semipalatinsk. This land is sacred to me not only because it is my motherland, but also because my forefathers were born here and lived there. For me, it is the most beautiful land in Kazakhstan.
Years ago during the testing, my parents bore witness to those bright and vast mushroom clouds as they filled the sky. When I was born, I was born without arms, and it was a shock to my mother.
My father was of course seriously worried about my future and very concerned about how I would live without arms. He brought me to Leningrad after learning about the Leningrad prosthetics institute where arm prosthetics were made. His hope was that I would be able to use them. I ended up studying in Leningrad and ultimately received my diploma, but I could never get used to the prosthetic arms.
In addition to my school studies, I took up art. I have loved to draw since my early childhood. I do not know why, but my soul was striving toward creating something beautiful. I did this without arms, but with my feet, legs and mouth.
I have become an artist, because an artist’s soul cannot be diminished by a physical limitation.
It is terrifying to realize that during the 40 years of tests on this sacred land, about 460 nuclear explosions were conducted. The people who lived in Semipalatinsk at the time came out of their homes during the explosions to watch them. They didn’t even know about the health threats and devastating consequences of the crimes being committed against them. Overdoses of radiation cause human beings to suffer from cancer tumors, skin cancer and leukemia. And, what’s more, according to the experts, the consequences of radiation can affect from five to six generations of people.
I have been to many countries where people have suffered from living under the shadow of nuclear tests. I have seen the tears falling from the eyes of mothers from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have participated in meetings and protests at the Nevada test site in the United States. I have worked with many friends, one (limited by) the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. I have seen sick mothers, and children — hidden by mothers uncomfortable with showing their children to other people. I have seen the effects of the great calamities that have damaged our planet.
“Wherever I have been, I always say with pride that I live in a country
that was one of the first to give up nuclear weapons”
“Everywhere I have been through, people have known about Kazakhstan, and about the unprecedented peace-making initiative of our head of state.
Years ago, thanks to our President, the Semipalatinsk test site was closed. I am proud to live in Kazakhstan, the first country to abandon nuclear madness and to serve as a worthy example for other powers which continue the weapons race.
Thanks to that decision made by President Nazarbayev, I was encouraged to contribute towards and fight to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
My main mission on this land is to do everything I can for people like me to be the last victims of nuclear tests and I made my choice – I support The ATOM Project that aims at uniting common efforts in the struggle against nuclear weapons tests. I call on every single person to be active in building a future free from nuclear explosions: sign the online petition of the ATOM Project, make your mark in history”.
I do not want the repeat of these events at any place or time, anywhere on the planet. I am happy to live at a time when the voice of one person can be heard and supported by millions living in the most distant places of the Earth –
our voices can become one powerful voice! And all as one, we can call for the permanent end to nuclear weapons testing”.
Kazakhstan’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Efforts: Background
In 1949, the Soviet nuclear weapons programme chose a test site right outside the Kazakhstan city of Semipalatinsk.
The Kazakh people know firsthand the horrors of nuclear weapons: between 1949 and 1991, 456 Soviet nuclear tests were conducted at the Semipalatinsk test site in Eastern Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan inherited more than 1,400 nuclear warheads upon gaining independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.
In August 1991 President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed a historic decree to close the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. Kazakhstan by then dismantled its infrastructure, and signed agreements to disarm the more than 1400 nuclear warheads inherited from the former Soviet Union.
On the 29th of December 1991 the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine signed the Almaty Declaration in which they agreed on the control mechanisms over the operation of the nuclear arsenal of the former USSR and affirmed their international obligations concerning the strategic arms reduction.
On the 23rd of May 1992 in Lisbon the representatives of Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and USA signed a five party Protocol to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. At the same time Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, as the states possessing nuclear weapons, committed themselves to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Kazakhstan was the first among the participants of the Lisbon Protocol to implement the provisions concerning removal of nuclear warheads. On the 21st of April 1996 the process of removal of 1416 nuclear warheads from Kazakhstan territory was completed – on the 30th of May 1995 the last nuclear test warhead, which was located in a gallery on the Semipalatinsk test site, was destroyed. Finally Kazakhstan had got rid of its nuclear inheritance forever.
In 2009 Kazakhstan with other regional partners created a nuclear weapon-free zone in Central Asia, and initiated a regional action plan to strengthen nuclear security, safety, non-proliferation and prevention of nuclear terrorism. Kazakhstan works tirelessly towards creating similar nuclear weapons-free zones throughout the world, and a WMD-free zone covering the Middle East. In 2013, Kazakhstan hosted two rounds of the P5+1 talks on Iran nuclear program, which paved the way for the Geneva talks.
In December 2009, the UN General Assembly unanimously accepted a resolution put forward by Kazakhstan proclaiming August 29, the day when in 1991 President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree on the closure of Semipalatinsk Test Site, as the ‘International Day against Nuclear Tests’.
Recognizing the negative impact of nuclear testing on human life and the environment, as well as the importance of ending nuclear tests as one of the key means of achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world, the Resolution sets out to commemorate a significant date in Kazakhstan’s – and, indeed, - the world’s history.
Achieving a world free of nuclear weapons was one of the priorities of Kazakhstan’s presidency in UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for 2017-2018.