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Home Articles Flashpoints 29 Aug International Day Against Nuclear Tests

29 Aug International Day Against Nuclear Tests

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 29 AUG 2019




On 29 August 1991, the Semipalatinsk nuclear test range in Kazakhstan was officially closed. In December 2009, the UN General Assembly, as a result of an initiative by the Government of Kazakhstan, declared 29th August to be the International Day Against Nuclear Testing.


Since 1945, just under 2000 nuclear tests have been performed, just under 1000 by the United States, and 750 by Russia/The Soviet Union. Of these, over 400 were performed at the Semipalatinsk Test Range in Kazakhstan. A similar number were performed in Nevada in the USA.


Nuclear weapons tests have been performed by the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, and the DPRK. Israel and South Africa are widely thought to have performed a clandestine test in the far south Atlantic in 1979. Tests have taken place above ground, underground, deep in the ocean, in coral atolls, in the deserts of Australia (UK) Algeria (France) Kazakhstan (Russia/USSR), and in outer space (US and Russia).


Well over 80% of all nuclear tests are accounted for by the combined US-USSR total, with some 300 tests by France, and 43 tests each by the UK and China. India and Pakistan have done 5 each all at once in 1998, while the DPRK has conducted eight, in a leisurely, widely – spaced sequence. There may be more to come.


The largest nuclear test ever took place at Novaya Zemlya, a large island beyond the arctic circle, the Tsar Bomba (King of Bombs) test by the USSR. It was four times the size of the US Castle Bravo test.


Nuclear testing has ruined the lives and trashed the sacred hunting grounds of indigenous peoples, who always seem to live in places that Governments – the UK Government at Maralinga, the Russians in Novaya Zemyla, the Americans in Nevada and the Pacific, the French in the Pacific and Algeria – seem to want to turn into radioactive fallout.


It has, especially in the days of above-ground testing, created fallout clouds that drift across the world.


And it has put the world 'on the brink' in ways that terrified our parents, or ourselves if we lived through it.


And the era of nuclear testing has yet to definitively end.


The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) seeks to put an end to nuclear testing. It has been signed and ratified by the overwhelming majority of the worlds governments, but has yet to enter into force. Australia has been/is a staunch supporter of the CTBT. It is time to redouble that support.


The US, though it has signed it, has refused to ratify it, and periodically there are moves amongst hardline conservatives for the US to 'un-sign' it. There are even at times, suggestions that the US (who have done more nuclear tests than anyone else), should , maybe, resume testing.


A resumption of testing by the US would likely result in nuclear tests by others, and the unravelling of the CTBT, and whatever remains of the global nuclear disarmament framework.


This must not be allowed to happen.


Supporters of the CTBT including Australia should seek creative ways to ensure that the CTBT will enter into force whatever the Government of the US does or does not do.


At the same time we should urge our 'great and powerful friend' to ratify rather than un-sign, the CTBT, and to persuade other governments that have yet to do so, that they should do likewise.


A renewed era of nuclear testing would be a catastrophe for the planet, and could usher in the ultimate catastrophe.


John Hallam

UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner,

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project

Australian Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND)

Co-Convener, Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risk Reduction

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International Day Against Nuclear Tests
29 August


HomeBackgroundMessagesEventsResourcesUN Observances

Licorne test, 1971, French Polynesia. Photo: The Official CTBTO Photostream

"The legacy of nuclear testing is nothing but destruction. The CTBT is vital to ensuring there are no more victims; it is also essential to advancing nuclear disarmament. On the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, I reiterate my call for all States that have not yet done so, to sign and ratify the Treaty, especially those whose ratification is needed for the Treaty’s entry into force. In a world of rising tensions and divisions, our collective security depends on it" — UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Since nuclear weapons testing began on 16 July 1945, nearly 2,000 have taken place. In the early days of nuclear testing little consideration was given to its devastating effects on human life, let alone the dangers of nuclear fallout from atmospheric tests. Hindsight and history have shown us the terrifying and tragic effects of nuclear weapons testing, especially when controlled conditions go awry, and in light of the far more powerful and destructive nuclear weapons that exist today.

On 2 December 2009, the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 29 August the International Day against Nuclear Tests by unanimously adopting resolution 64/35. The resolution calls for increasing awareness and education “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.” The resolution was initiated by the Republic of Kazakhstan, together with a large number of sponsors and cosponsors with a view to commemorating the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site on 29 August 1991.

2010 marked the inaugural commemoration of the International Day against Nuclear Tests. In each subsequent year, the day has been observed by coordinating various activities throughout the world, such as symposia, conferences, exhibits, competitions, publications, lectures, media broadcasts and other initiatives.

Since its establishment, many bilateral and multilateral governmental level developments as well as broad movements in civil society have helped to advance the cause of banning nuclear tests.

Moreover, “convinced that nuclear disarmament and the total elimination of nuclear weapons are the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of nuclear weapons,” the General Assembly designated 26 September as the “International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons", which is devoted to furthering the objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, through the mobilization of international efforts. The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was observed for the first time in September 2014. The International Day against Nuclear Tests, together with other events and actions, has fostered a global environment that strongly advocates for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The international instrument to put an end to all forms of nuclear testing is the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Unfortunately, this has yet to enter into force.

As the Secretary-General recognized in his disarmament agenda “Securing our Common Future” launched on 24 May 2018, the norm against testing is an example of a measure that serves both disarmament and non-proliferation objectives. By constraining the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons, the CTBT puts a brake on the arms race. It also serves as a powerful normative barrier against potential States that might seek to develop, manufacture and subsequently acquire nuclear weapons in violation of their non-proliferation commitments.

Every effort needs to be made to ensure the entry into force of the CTBT and to preserve its place in the international architecture. In this regard, the Secretary-General appeals to all remaining States whose ratifications are required for the CTBT to enter into force to commit to sign the Treaty at an early date if they have not already done so, and to accelerate the completion of their ratification processes.

It is the hope of the UN that one day all nuclear weapons will be eliminated. Until then, there is a need to observe International Day against Nuclear Tests as the world works towards promoting peace and security.

In 2009, the United Nations declared 29 August to be the International Day against Nuclear Tests, a day to raise awareness about the catasrophic impacts of nuclear weapons tests or any other nuclear explosions, and the need to abolish nuclear tests as one of the ways to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The initiative for the day came from the government of Kazakhstan. The date chosen commemorates the anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site in Kazakhstan in 1991.

Since then a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has been negotiated, and an Organisation for its implementation established, but the treaty is still not universally supported and has not entered into force.

Parliamentarians, governments and civil society are encouraged to commemorate the International Day Against Nuclear Tests through statements and events promoting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, as well as the prohibition of any use of nuclear weapons and the achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

ATOM Project calls for moment of silence

Karipbek Kuyukov, second generation victim of Soviet nuclear tests and Honorary Ambassador of the ATOM Project (which was launched at the PNND 2012 Assembly) calls on people around the world to observe a moment of silence on August 29th.

“Nuclear weapons testing in Kazakhstan and around the world unleashed untold amounts of suffering,” said Kuyukov. “The suffering of these victims continues today. Their struggles cannot be forgotten. I urge, in memory of those who have suffered and continue to do so, people around the world to observe a moment of silence on that day.”

Kuyukov would like people to observe the moment of silence at 11:05 a.m. their local time. At this time analog clock hands form a Roman letter “V,” symbolizing victory. "The moment of silence and the representation of victory honour those who have suffered and urges the international community to continue to seek victory over the nuclear weapons threat."

Commemorative events


1.     Screening of 'Where the Wind Blew' followed by discussion

2pm. August 23, 2019
Public Chamber of the Russian FederationMoscow, Russia

Where the Wind Blew is a dramatic documentary about the impact of nuclear tests and the cooperation between anti-nuclear movements in Kazakhstan and the USA (the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement) that was successful in closing down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and paving the way for the CTBT. The screening commemorates the International Day Against Nuclear Tests and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement.

Event is in Russian. To register contact: Alzhan Tursunkulov by tel. 8 (495) 627 18 34, WhatsApp: 8 (926) 800 6477, E-mail:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


2.     Conference on Fostering Cooperation amongst Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZs)

August 28-29, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
The conference is invite only but will produce an outcomes paper for wide circulation.


3.   Panel Discussion on Cooperation amongst NWFZs

Monday, September 2. 13:15 – 15:00 pm. 
Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XXVII
H.E. Ms. Zhanar Aitzhanova. Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN in Geneva
Ms. Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva
Mr. Alyn Ware; PNND Global Coordinator, Consultant for the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
Mr. Pavel PodvigSenior Researcher, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Other Strategic Weapons Programme, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research

Click here for the event flyer.Those without a UN grounds pass interested in the event please contact:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  before Aug 28


4.  High-level plenary meeting

Thursday, 9 September 2019. Time: 10:00am
General Assembly Hall, United Nations Headquarters, New York
Opening remarks: H.E. María Fernanda Espinosa, President of the General Assembly
Those without a UN Grounds Pass interested in this event should contact: Ms. Diane Barnes at +1 212 963 9169, Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it