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Soviets to End Nuclear Tests at Asia Site

March 10, 1990| The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Soviet Union, bowing to extraordinary political pressure from its citizens, has decided to end underground nuclear explosions at its principal test site in South-Central Asia within three years and move a sharply reduced atomic testing program to a remote island within the Arctic circle, according to Soviet and U.S. sources.

The move, announced in Moscow this week by a senior defense official at a hearing of the Supreme Soviet legislature, is aimed at satisfying residents near the Semipalatinsk test site in rural Kazakhstan who claim they repeatedly have been exposed to radiation generated by the detonations.

But the shift to an Arctic test site will force a reduction in the number of nuclear tests and hinder development of weapons that could be used against the United States and its allies, the sources said.

A special committee of the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences determined last year that residents had experienced excess cancers, genetic diseases and child mortality because of radiation exposure while nuclear tests were conducted above ground prior to the U.S.-Soviet Limited Test Ban in 1963.

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