THE POLYGON [UNVEILING OF] From national tragedy to national pride.
â€œNational Institute has issued a comprehensive plan to clean up the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site by tackling down portions of the site each with their own set of challenges. The plan to conduct comprehensive studies of the entire site to be completed by 2022 with 80 percent of the site open for economic use. Cognisant of that reality, this project challenges standard remediative approaches towards a contaminated site. It is an opportunity to engage with issues of identity, materiality and experience of the site, establishing a more meaningful relationship between people and their land. All images and graphics are by Andrey Chernykh unless otherwise noted.
â€œWe come from nature and we have to understand what it is, because we are connected to it and we are part of it. And if we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.â€? - Edward Burtynsky
Fig. 01 Detonation of first Soviet nuclear bomb RDS-1 (Joe 1).
preface One of the most unique and destructive land degradation tactics in recent years has been attributed to nuclear testing. Over 2,000 nuclear weapons of varied magnitude of destruction have been tested around the world between 1945 and present day. The effects range from environmental and social degradation to total destruction or displacement of all living species. Unlike a site that is contaminated by a visible pollutant like oil, radiation is invisible and without special equipment cannot be detected in the landscape.
It is imperative that we use innovative rehabilitation strategies that create resilient ecologies and eliminate the stigma associated with the local populations. More importantly, the site offers an opportunity to redefine nuclear remediation not as a restoration of some abstract environmental order but rather a redistribution of a multitude of orders that offer new connections between all living species and the landscape.
As a product of a nuclear explosion, some of the radioactive fission particles have a half life that is measured in thousands and sometimes millions of years and any prolonged exposure to them is likely to cause cancer or other illnesses for multitude of generations to come. In the face of climate change and accelerated landscape migration subsequent nuclear landscapes present unique sets of challenges that pertain to ecology, habitation and economic development. Anyone living next to such sites is unknowingly exposed to health risks associated with levels of radiation higher than normal.
Fig. 02 Crater created from nuclear test at Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site.
Shrouded in secrecy, in a pursuit and expression of power, Soviet era nuclear test sites were used to conduct enormous acts of destruction on the landscape. The test sites often had an adjacent urban settlement. Existing communities were further developed and/or sometimes fabricated entirely, relying predominantly on military operations as a means for economic development. State propaganda convinced Soviet citizens that nuclear testing was a worthy investment, that makes their nation stronger in the event of nuclear war.
Fig. 03 Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in 1989.
Swift demilitarization of those sites as a result of Soviet Union collapse have dealt a substantial blow to the rural population that continued living in those areas without an economic engine or plan for future development. Today these sites can be found largely neglected with various scales of contamination, lack of oversight and stigma. Despite that, they have become powerful relics of a bygone era, attracting a particular kind of tourism.
In the current era of accelerated landscape migration, a process by which environments shift and change by the impacts of human civilization, sites affected by nuclear fallout challenge our notion of inhabitation, experience and ecology; establishing a new reality. Reclamation in this new reality starts with assumption that the ecological clock cannot be turned back to an earlier time. Levels of contamination often persist for millennia, making the landscape permanently altered.
Fig. 04 Abandoned hotel in Kurchatov city.
Without any framework in place there is a significant risk to inhabitants that use the land for purposes like agriculture, cattle grazing, resource extraction, and recreation.
The remnant infrastructure of the site reveals its story and contentious legacy of nuclear weapons testing. Thus, it presents an opportunity for new models of development of the site in order to eliminate stigma and turn the area into a catalyst for potential heritage preservation, ecological rehabilitation and new patterns of development. It is an opportunity to affirm James Cornerâ€™s formulation that landscape is not a terra firma but terra fluxus.
Fig. 05 Reading background radiation at Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site.
Quoting ecologist and urban planner Nina-Marie Lister, it is also a chance to establish a more â€œrigorous application of ecological processes, across material, social, spatial and political dimensions of landscapeâ€?. Through deployment of innovative rehabilitation technologies, site preservation and curation, this thesis project is an opportunity to test an approach that is more holistic not only from environmental perspective but from an ethical point of view as well.
Due to the long term persistence of nuclear contamination, the site necessitates a phased approach that focuses on future generations with a scenario based style. This thesis will address much broader forces which in no doubt will affect the site in the future, like climate change, exponential population growth and economic pressures of development, which further complicate our relationship with those places.
Fig. 06 Yuri Strilchuk leads a team of journalists at the Experimental Field.
How we engage such tarnished and marginalized landscapes in the long term, is one of the most important challenges of our time.
history of soviet nuclear program
Fig. 07 Soviet Nuclear Program historical timeline.
land and water, light and weather, cloud gaps, wind, sea of grass, brook and river lake and fields, fields, pastures, rolling hills sea of grass. sublime... immeasurable.... cragged...
- Gunther Vogt Miniature and Panorama. 2010
Fig. 08 Walking towards nuclear crater
Area: 2,724,900 sq. km (9th largest country) Population: 17.04 million (2013) Capital: Astana Currency: Tenge Official languages: Kazakh, Russian Industry: Oil, gas, coal, iron ore, manganese, chromite, lead, zinc, copper, titanium Agriculture: Wheat, cotton, livestock Kazakhstan is a landlocked country with over 130 ethnic groups.
Fig. 09. Kazakhstan and neighbouring countries. Fig. 10. Kazakhstan flag.
Kazakhstan is located in the Palearctic ecozone. It has got quite diverse landscape types from semi-desserts to high Tien-Shan mountains in the south, part of the Himalayas. The weather conditions at the site are of high contrast ranging from temperatures as high as +40C in summer and -45C in winter. The site is part of an ecoregion of low mountains and foothills as well as meadow and shrub steppe. Nuclear test site specifically occupies a temperate grassland ecoregion. 22
Fig. 11. Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site and the temperate grassland ecoregion
SEMIPALATINSK NUCLEAR TEST SITE
Fig. 12. SNTS scale comparison
Fig. 13. SNTS site key testing areas
Kurchatov City “9” “8” “4a” “4”
Greater Toronto Area 7,124 sq. km
Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (SNTS) 18,000 sq. km
New Jersey state 22,608 sq. km
Belgium 30,528 sq. km
test site then...
Fig. 14 Experimental Field after Joe-1 test.
test site now...
Fig. 15 Experimental field looking south from the epicentre.
atomic capital There were three designated nuclear test sites in the former Soviet Union that conducted nuclear tests or simulations of nuclear warfare - an archipelago Novaya Zemlya, Totskoye Range and Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. However, they only experienced a handful of experiments compared to Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site located in what is now independent Kazakhstan. The 18,000 sq. km area, previously a natural reserve, was selected in 1947 and swiftly developed into a military test base for the latest technology (Lukashenko, 3). The large region was believed to be uninhabited when initially chosen, however there were thousands of people living within the testing area. A special city was built; codenamed Semipalatinsk â€“ 21, it was chosen in part for its isolation and was initially not shown on any maps. As the tests commenced, as many as 50,000 people were living in the city, the majority of them scientists, military personnel and staff who were directly involved in nuclear experiments.
The majority of people moved out of the city due to the collapse of the economy generated by the site, leaving it with fluctuating population of below 10,000 people. Today the population is seeing a slight increase due to work in the research and nuclear energy sector; however a third of the city remains abandoned, in some cases in complete ruins caused by scrap metal scavenging. Complex conditions at the nuclear site, a grim legacy and a lack of framework and regulation all contribute to a depressed and stigmatized city whose inhabitants suffer from a negative self image (Kassenova, 2009). Strong historical as well as ideological ties to Kurchatov make SNTS almost an extension of the city, creating a distinct identity for the region. There is an opportunity for the SNTS to be a catalyst in Kurchatovâ€™s future development. Ongoing radiological assessment of the nuclear site, and a steady increase in atomic and ecological tourism, position the site in an interesting set of circumstances. General interest in nuclear sites around the world makes the case for SNTS potentially to be granted a special status of UNESCO heritage site as one of a kind national park.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new president of independent Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered the closing of the test site. Semipalatinsk â€“ 21 was renamed as Kurchatov, after the father of the first nuclear bomb - Igor Kurchatov.
Fig.16 - 21. Downtown Kurchatov.
beyond kurchatov There are three main testing areas at SNTS, designated for various types of nuclear tests. They stand out as landmarks in the otherwise vast grassland steppe. Because of their unique physical features, extensive nuclear testing and significant levels of radioactive contamination proven to have a negative health effect on any visitor to the area, it is important to take a closer look at these sites as potential grounds to implement much needed interventions that address their ecology and evolution over time including their impact on the surrounding urban and rural settlements. Main issues include: - illegal industrial/commercial activity - marginalized indigenous population - cancer is 1.5 times national average - fear/anxiety - lack of regulation Fig. 22. Villager carrying water
- large areas of invisible/uneven radioactive contamination
Fig. 23. Metal scavengers. Fig. 24. Nurse feeds a child born with deformities.
- frequent grassland fires
Fig. 25. Women from village of Koyan, work to extinguish steppe fire. Fig. 26. Children from vIllage Koyan, playing soccer. Fig. 27. Horses grazing freely.
climate Wind cycles in the winter are affected by Siberian anticyclones which create a stable harsh winter conditions. (Lukashenko, 14) Winds come predominantly from south-west (38.4%) and south (16.3%). (Lukashenko, 14) Often times there are contrasting conditions of no wind in the area. Summer time wind patterns change drastically with north-west winds at 27.4%, west winds at 16.8% and north winds at 14.9%. (Lukashenko, 15) Strong winds are usually observed in spring (April, May) and fall (September, November) (Lukashenko, 15) With continuous and strong winds, dust storms are observed with speeds reaching 20-30 m/s. Dust particles are picked up much easier from uneven surfaces with poor vegetation cover which is typical for arid and semi arid regions of the site. Mass grazing, vehicular movements and human inhabitation are the main contributors to poor vegetation cover. Fiver dust storms on average are recorded in the area. (Lukashenko, 16).
Fig. 28. Kurchatov Wind Rose.
Atomic tourist Villager
Percipitation levels in the area are low due to continental climate with usually poor moisture levels. Central Asian desert ecoregion contributes greately to the siteâ€™s dry conditions. Due to warm temperatures in the summer there is a high level of evaporation observed which prevents sufficient ammount of water to enter the soil. (Lukashenko, 17)
Fig. 29. SNTS climate diagram, main inhabitants and their activity throughout the year
Fig. 30. Flat-fescue-steppe plants Fig. 31. Bunchgrass-steppe plants Fig. 32. Basin of nuclear creater featuring invasive species like Phragmites australis
Fig. 33. Petrophytes on hilltops
Fig. 34. Turf-grass-foothill steppe plants
Fig. 36. Fragmented forest ecosystems at Degelen mountain
Fig. 37. Meadow vegetation around strams of Degelen Mountain.
Fig. 35. Hilltop-shrub-steppe plants
Fig. 38. Salt marsh meadow
Fig. 39. Plant species found at SNTS
Fig. 40. Plant species found at SNTS
Fig. 41. Plant species found at SNTS
Fig. 42. Plant species found at SNTS
Fig. 43. Plant species found at SNTS
Fig. 44. Plant species found at SNTS
extent of contamination
A few early tests conducted at the experimental field left traces of contamination carried by wind, beyond the boundaries of the testing site. Those initial tests conducted on 08.29.1949 (south-east plume) and on 09.24.1951 (south plume) left traces of the fallout that stretch for at least 100 km (Moshkov, 99). The contamination of soil in those areas reaches depth of about 10 - 20 cm. Dominant contaminants are 90-Sr, 241-Am, 137-Cs, and 239-Pu (Lukashenko, 17). Surveying of the territory suggests that groundwater movement is north-north-east which eventually discharges into Irtysh river. Among the above mentioned radioactive isotopes found in groundwater, Tritium 3-H, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen is of major concern. In various creeks and streams, even more than 10 km away from testing site, Tritium contamination is sigificantly higher than permissible drinking levels (Lukashenko, 19). Numerous small settlements on the map dot the former test area, most of them are unknowingly subjected to radiation found in soil, plants and water.
Fig. 45. Existing conditions at Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site
livestock grazing span
The region experiences a loss of valuable forage grasses due to irregular grazing of pastures near settlements. Grasslands are overgrown by invasive species creating an inedible pasture land. 82% of cattle is concentrated around small landowners and only 18% in farms (Rachkovskaya, 134). Due to economic factors, landowners in small settlements typically pasture their livestock no more than 5 km from the settlement (Rachkovskaya, 134). From the site visit it became evident that what is left of nomadic style of living is disappearing due to readily available transportation and technology. Convenience of having a car or a motorcycle due to cheap gas prices and reasonable driving distance to a nearby gas station, made almost of the settlements permanent. On site however small settlements still involve taking the animals out for large distances where dangerous areas show lack of signage or no warnings at all. This becomes a problem when some of the livestock gets lost or when shepherds drive around looking for fresh feed to dry and stock up for the winter months.
Fig. 46. Mapping livestock grazing distances at SNTS
5 km grazing diameter for a herd
radionuclides on site and their halflives
Fig. 47. Types of ionizing radiation
Fig. 48. Radionuclides present at Semipalatinsk
Aluminum Alpha Beta Gamma, x-rays Neutrons
Radionuclides pervade soil to a depth of 5-15 cm. Plants take up the contaminants.
Fig. 49. Impact of radionuclides on the food web.
Livestock graze those plants
Locals consume milk and meat from the livestock
Once injested, radionuclides are like tiny suns enter our bodies, they disrupt the DNA and cause cells to mutate leading to variety of cancers
Due to long half life, they are passed down through generations. Every person experiences different symptomes.
test site by the numbers
Fig. 50. Types of tests conducted at the site.
settlements and urban centres
Fig. 51. Settlement centres.
Major urban areas (10,000+) Large villages (2,000-5,000z) Pasture sites/settlements (<500)
productive pasture lands
Fig. 52. Distribution of feed for livestock on site.
infrastructure & extraction industry
Fig. 53. Industrial areas on site.
Active extraction sites
Potential deposit sites
Agriculture sites (livestock)
4 areas = 4 markers
Fig. 54. Four proposed sites of intervention
The sites create a network of destinations that are safe to explore and learn about, in turn demystifying the site and eliminating stigma. The markers will help to establish a new identity for the site as a national park that balances industrial and commercial activity with tourism. There is hope as the site evolves it will be an economic driver for local communities as well as city of Kurchatov.
The design approach is to utilize existing infrastructure as much as possible and build on the complex history of the site. Philosophy of Land Art, an American art movement of the 1960s as well as writings of Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson have influenced the language and the scale of interventions to be implemented at four key areas. Each area has a significant history of nuclear testing and often is a direct source of radioactive contamination that is for the most part inadequately marked or regulated (Degelen Mountain is an exception, as it was closed down in 2012 with strict security measures in place). With Degelen mountain as a precedent it is expected that other areas will follow the same model of closure without any consideration for ecology, heritage and rising tourist visits. The aim is to render the radioactive contamination visible using ecology and infrastructure design. Each site would be distinctly marked through implementation of new infrastructure or repurposing of the old one. However the markers would be unified through a common design language and materiality.
THE mounta in
history & current conditions
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the scientists and military personnel withdrew from the area. They abandoned tunnels and boreholes filled with plutonium residue enough if fully reclaimed, for terrorists to construct dozens of nuclear bombs. Between 1992 and 2012 scavengers came within yards of the unguarded fissile material. Most were local citizens who were once employed to build the tunnels in the mountains. They typically used mining equipment to extract everything of value, including copper from electrical wiring and rails that once used to transport nuclear devices deep underground. Scavenging became a big problem in 1990s partially due to new local officials, who in desperate need to spur local economic growth, issued regional mining licenses for non-ferrous metals without warning of contaminated zones in the area. Some scavengers were carrying guns to safeguard their operations. In the ensuing months, reports began to surface of radioactive copper popping up in metal markets in neighbouring China. (Harrel & Hofmann, 5)
Degelen Mountains are located in the southern portion of the site making them the only significant mountain cluster at the SNTS. This is where the Soviet Union conducted the majority of their underground explosions from 1963 until the site was closed. The area of the site is 350 sq. km and major reason for its establishment was the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty by the Soviet Union (Lukashenko, 49). Most tests involved small or medium size nuclear explosions. Tunnels ranged from 140m to about 1600m in depth (Lukashenko, 49). When devices were exploded inside, there was a significant level of damage to the mountain structure around and above. In some cases a powerful enough explosion would break through to the surface of the mountain, releasing the radioactive fission material into the ground water and atmosphere. The resulting radioactive overburden after the explosion would be taken out and dumped in heaps around the entrance to the tunnel (Lukashenko, 51). Major concern that the ground water continuously flowing through the mountains would carry the radioactive particles along with it, still remains to this day.
Fig. 55. Tritium concentration in vegetation around Degelen mountain
Fig. 56. Entrance to test tunnel before sealing. Fig. 57. Entrance to test tunnel after sealing. Fig. 58. Monument to securing the Degelen Mountain.
The site was secured in 2012 after 17 year long mission where Russia, Kazakhstan and U.S. worked together to seal all the exposed tunnels where 200 kg of nuclear material were buried. The tunnels were filled with concrete. A monument was erected on site with words etched in Russian, Kazakh and English declaring: â€œ1996-2012. The world has become safer.â€? (Harrell & Hoffman, 1) It was throught that nuclear contamination was concentrated in the watercourses inside the tunnels themselves. However studies have shown that contamination beyond the perimeter exists. Visible creeks have in the period of high percipitation carried the contaminants which are now bound in soil and plants. Movement of Tritium and other radionuclides is primarily through ground water (Lukashenko, 64). Dominant contaminant in streams of Degelen mountains is Tritium, which is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Once it is released into the environment it cannot be removed. It can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through skin (Straume). Studies have shown that lower dose of tritium can cause more cell death than higher doses. Typical health consequences are cancer, genetic defects, developmental abnormalities and reproductive defects.
Fig. 59. Inside one of the tunnels. Fig. 60. Tunnel section drawing after testing of nuclear device.
streams and tunnel locations
Tunnel Tunnel with watercourse Creeks Underground streams Test area border
Fig. 61. Map of Degelen mountain area with streams and tunnel locations
As the tunnels varied in depth some of them would have a stream close by. The testing would create a burst within the crust causing any subterranean streams to be contaminated with nuclear fission material. The water would carry the contaminants further than the border of the site. The radionuclides would be found in the riparian vegetation and soil in the exposed streams beyond the site. The areas with the most concentration of radionuclides would often be a part of productive pasture ground filled with variety of forage grasses.
marking and navigating degelen mountain
Fig. 62. Elevated concrete trail. Fig. 63. Plan of trails and interventions.
The Degelen mountain is proposed to be a curated monument with two opposite facing elevated trails that snake along the two spines of the mountain terminating at the highest elevation facing each other. Along the way a hiker encounters a series of concrete markers that trace the location and the length of the buried test tunnels below.
1086 m PARKING VIEWING PLATFORM
CONCRETE TUNNEL MARKERS
1079 m BURIED TEST TUNNELS
Fig. 64. Observation deck at the summit
Fig. 65. Nuclear tunnel marker
The intersection of the trail and a marker becomes a special moment of viewing and appreciating the monument and its history. The tunnel marker profile is derived from the size and design of the buried tunnels, giving the hiker a sense of scale of Soviet nuclear testing infrastructure. The intersection provides the moment of refuge and contemplation. Concrete provides the protection from any ionizing radiation present, offering a safe environment to enjoy a pit stop along the journey.
Fig. 66. Tunnel marker arch section.
Fig. 67. Degelen hiking trail intersects with a tunnel marker
Key Plan Shelter: concrete marker and trail intersection
Concrete marker tracing underground tunnel
Fig. 68. Shepherds herd their catlle by the Degelen mountain. Tunnel markers straddle the topography of the mountain in the distance
Fig. 69 - 70. Degelen Mountain physical model and detail of observation deck
Fig. 71. View towards observaton deck
existing road infrastructure
Fig. 72. Road 01
Fig. 73. Road 02
Fig. 74. Road 03
Fig. 75. Road 04
Fig. 76. Road 05
Fig. 77. Road 06
Fig. 78. Craters from surface nuclear tests.
traversing through the plume: bridges & roads
Fig. 79. Bridge over phyto field Fig. 80. Bridge with tunnel portion Fig. 81. Stabilization mat planting. Contaminants are locked in the root zone
Two plumes that spread throughout the site have low level ionizing radiation which needs to be marked and contained. Along with phytoremediation techniques the road infrastructure could be a tool to navigate the site safely and efficiently. It can also serve as a marker that warns of the dangerous conditions present at the site. Redesign of current road infrastructure ranges from minimal modifications and repairs to existing conditions to addition of bridge sections over areas that have high levels of radiation.
Fig. 82. Repaved road with phyto planting. Fig. 83. Road with ha-ha wall. Fig. 84. Road with rubble mounds. Fig. 85. Road with concrete barrier walls. Fig. 86. Phyto species.
Calluna vulgaris (Common Heather)
Rumex acerosa (Common Sorrel)
Helianthus anuus (Sunflower)
Contaminant: 137Cs, 90Sr
Fig. 87. Aerial view of the bridge over plume marked with sunflower plants
Fig. 88. Road through the plume. The measuring & monitoring of low-level radiation is practised through phytoremedial containment and monitoring of livestock equipped with geiger counters
Fig. 89. Model of the bridge over a plume
Fig. 90. Detail of the bridge
THE L Ake
history and current conditions of CHAGAN SITE
In 1965 Soviet Ministry of Defence tested an underground nuclear device at the confluence of the two rivers Chagan and Ashisu, with a yield of 140Kt which is equivalent to 10 Hiroshima bombs. It was used to test a hypothesis of creating artificial water reservoirs using nuclear explosives. The resulting crater is 100 meters deep and 500m in diameter. A dam was built to allow flooding of the surrounding valley, which in turn filled up the crater creating what is now known as the Atomic lake (Lukashenko, 12).
Fig. 91. Borehole Telkem - 1. Result of three consecutive nuclear explosions
Fig. 92. Map of Balapan site indicating location of test boreholes
Atomic Lake area
The explosion yielded significant soil outburst with various degrees of contamination. The water is contaminated with tritium, a radioactive isotope that prevents the support of aquatic life. Due to secrecy and ignorance from the Soviet government, no one living in the area was notified of the consequences of the test. The area has some of the highest concentrations of local settlements, including a small town of Sarzhal, 30 km away, with population around 2,500 who use the area regularly for picnics, recreation and swimming. It is the only place with a large body of water in an otherwise fairly arid region. Atomic lake is also known as borehole #1004. It is part of a larger testing site named â€œBalapanâ€? where 119 boreholes were constructed for underground tests. (Strilchuk, 66). The yield of the explosions ranged from 20 to 150 kT. (Strilchuk, 66) Atomic Lakeâ€™s heaps of overburden in some areas reach 20-25 meters.
Fig. 93-94. Explosion at the borehole #1004
Fig. 95. Radionuclide contamination at the Atomic Lake Fig. 96. Measuring radiation on the shores of the Atomic Lake
Fig. 97. Locals driviing to the shores of the lake for a picnic. Fig. 98. Atomic Lake looking east
Fig. 99. Nuclear warning sign at an experimental phytormeediative tree stand
engaging ATOMIC lake
Atomic lake presents itself as a landscape artifact that attracts objective admiration amid dangerous radiation levels. By understanding its history, evolution and current site conditions one can engage with this novel landscape in a safe way, making it an asset of the region in terms of local economic development and tourist attraction.
Fig. 100. Atomic Lake site plan. Fig. 101. Evolution of crater ecologies after the test
Phytoremediative Rumex Aserosa
Perennial Forage Grasses Alopecurus pratensis Artemisia frigada Festuca valensiaca Pasture areas
Concrete yurt locations
Fig. 102. Trail engages one side of the lake perimeter focusing on observation and closer look at the shoreline composition and ecology
Fig. 103. Axonometric of crater trail.
Cantilivered concrete walkway Key Plan
Tritium contaminated water
Fig. 104. CNC model of atomic lake site
Fig. 105. Atomic lake site model detail
Fig. 106. View east from the trail
THE fiel d
past uses and hazards
The site that was used for the majority of the experiments between 1949 and 1962, is the Experimental Field located 50 km south west from Kurchatov. The site is a prairie grassland of about 20 km in diameter surrounded by low mountains on three sides. With a circular grid plan to measure atmospheric and surface tests, it once housed a sophisticated infrastructure of measuring towers and various equipment used to record and quantify parameters of nuclear explosions. Poor road infrastructure and distance between the objects makes it difficult to access them all by foot; Automobile, typically a jeep, is the most viable means of experiencing the site. Overall 116 tests were performed at the experimental field - 86 atmospheric and 30 surface tests (Strilchuk, 27).
Fig. 107. Ionizing radiation of overburden near one of the ruins
A completely ravaged landscape, the land consists of craters, concrete objects and excavated underground tunnels, with varying levels of contamination. Some of the earlier tests have not been successful and were the cause of a majority of the siteâ€™s and regionâ€™s contamination. Radioactive contamination presents a hazard to local nomads and small settlements who traverse through the area or graze their cattle in the vast plains. The distribution of radioactive contamination of the site in soil and ground water is currently being measured and mapped. The government is contemplating a few strategies for the site, ranging from enclosing certain areas with indefinite restricted access, to deploying experimental technologies such as phytoremediation.
Fig. 108. Original plan and uses of the Experimental Field
Fig. 109 -110. Craters at the Experiemental field site
itemization of existing structures on site
The site accumulated close to a hundred different structures that were used for evaluating the effects of a nuclear explosion on built fabric. In its totality the site can be compared to a work of land art with its carefully arranged infrastructure of concrete towers in various states of decay. Other objects compliment the towers scale and add complexity to the site. However, the scattered nature of the objects make it difficult to comprehend the fragments as a legible system.
Fig. 111. Measuring tower 01 Fig. 112. Bridge footing Fig. 113. Submarine replica
The collection of structures forms a spectacular testament to the Soviet nuclear era.
Fig. 114. Barracks. Fig. 115. Monitoring station Fig. 116. Fragment 01 Fig. 117. Weapons shelter Fig. 118. Underground shaft Fig. 119. Bunker 01.
Fig. 120. Bunker Lid 01 Fig. 121. Underground bunker entry Fig. 122. Measuring Tower 02
Fig. 123. Bunker Lid 02 Fig. 124. Weapons shelter 02 Fig. 125. Underground bunker Fig. 126. Entry shaft Fig. 127. Concrete sphere Fig. 128. Concrete column
experimentAL field as outdoor museum
Fig. 129. Adaptive re-use of ruins as sculptures. Fig. 130. Experimental field plan.
SURFACE EXPLOSION CRATERS
EXISTING CLAY TARGET MARKERS
MEASURING TOWERS BUNKERS
EXISTING CLAY TARGET MARKERS
Phytoremediative Rumex Aserosa
Phytoremediative Helianthus Anuus
Phytoremediative Calluna vulgaris
Forage Grasses Alopecurus pratensis Artemisia frigada Festuca valensiaca
Concrete yurt locations
Fig. 131. Barns would be built to house livestock used in monitoring the radiation on site
Fig. 132. Concrete yurts would be constructed as needed to house tourists camping overnight to protect them from ionizing radiation
measuring & monitoring low-level radiation As the main economic driver of the region, livestock hearding can be used as a tool to monitor how radionuclides affect animals in the long term. Geiger counter is the only device that measures and quantifies radiation. Using that tool combined with mobility of livestock a lot of valuable data can be gleaned about living and working in the region. At the same time once the biomass, whether it is a livestock or vegetation, is affected by radionuclides, they accumulate them in their tissues. At the end of life the biomass needs to be disposed of appropriately. Concrete berms that act as both a road infrastructure and a capping mechanism provide a long term solution as the site continues to evolve.
Fig. 133-35. Variety of geiger counters offer more options of measuring radiation
Fig. 136. Livestock as hyperaccumulators of toxins and indicators of radioactivity on site.
Fig. 137. Berm construction at ground zero
Fig. 138. Prefab berm units connect to form a continuous walkway
Continuous berm provides safe, controlled access
Harvesting of phyto plants
Sheep grazing on radioactive crops
Ground zero crater
Fig. 139. Experimental field CNC model.
Fig. 140. CNC model detail.
Fig. 141. Entering the berm at the Experimental Field
Chang, C. & Guroff, K. Of Gold and Grass: Nomads of Kazakhstan. Eds. Claudia Chang, Katharine S. Guroff, and Foundation of International Arts and Educa tion. [Bethesda, Md.]: Foundation for International Arts and Education, 2007 Print. Chris Reed and Nina-Marie Lister, Projective Ecologies (New York: Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Actar Publishers, 2014). Excerpted and adapted in Reed and Lister, “Ecology and Design: Parallel Genealogies,” Places Journal, April 2014. Eben Harrell and David E. Hoffman, “Plutonium mountain: Inside the 17-year mission to secure a dangerous legacy of Soviet nuclear testing,” (Cambridge, Mass.: The Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, August 2013).
Kassenova, Togzhan. “The Lasting Toll of Semipalatinsk’s Nuclear Testing.” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 28 Sept. 2009, thebulletin.org/lasting-toll-semipalatinsks nuclear-testing. Lukashenko, S. N., Kadyrzhanov K.K. Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site: Present State. Republic of Kazakhstan Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology. Pavlodar, Kazakhstan: Press House. 2011. Lukashenko, S. N. ed. Topical Questions about Radioecology of Kazakhstan: Optimization of Research of Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site with a Goal of Converting it for Agricultural Purposes. 5th ed. 1 Vol. Kurchatov: Pavlodar: Dom Pechati, 2015. Print. Straume, T and Carsten, AL.Tritium Radiobiology and Relative Biological Effectiveness. Health Physics. 65 (6) : 657-672; 1993
reference Image index Figure 01. Kuran, P. (Director). (1995). Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie [Motion picture on DVD]. USA: Visual Concept Entertainment (VCE).
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Figure 49. Hawryluk, K., Schomer, A. (2014) “The Polygon.” Directed by Kimberley Hawryluk and Adam Schomer. USA: Mushroom Cloud Productions. Figure 50. Lukashenko, S. N., Kadyrzhanov K.K. Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site: Present State. Republic of Kazakhstan Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology. Pavlodar, Kazakhstan: Press House. pg 3. 2011. PDF. Figure 51. Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Almaty. Figure 53. Lukashenko, S. N., Kadyrzhanov K.K. Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site: Present State. Republic of Kazakhstan Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology. Pavlodar, Kazakhstan: Press House. pg 24-25. 2011. PDF. Figure 55. Larinova, N.B. Topical Questions about Radioecology of Kazakhstan: Optimization of Research of Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site with a Goal of Converting it for Agricultural Purposes. 5th ed. 1 Vol. Kurchatov: Pavlodar: Dom Pechati, pg. 63. 2015. PDF. Figure 56-57. Lukashenko, S. N. Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site: Present State. Republic of Kazakhstan Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology. Pavlodar, Kazakhstan: Press House. pg. 15. 2011. PDF.
Figure 59. US Department of Defence. Plutonium Mountain: Inside the 17-year mission to secure a dangerous legacy of Soviet nuclear testing,” Cambridge, Mass.: The Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, (Originally photographed in 1997) pg. 9. 2013. Figure 60 Osintsev A. Y., Panitsky A.V. Topical Questions about Radioecology of Kazakhstan: Optimization of Research of Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site with a Goal of Converting it for Agricultural Purposes. 5th ed. 1 Vol. Kurchatov: Pavlodar: Dom Pechati, pg. 49. 2015. PDF. Figure 61. Osintsev A. Y., Panitsky A.V. Topical Questions about Radioecology of Kazakhstan: Optimization of Research of Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site with a Goal of Converting it for Agricultural Purposes. 5th ed. 1 Vol. Kurchatov: Pavlodar: Dom Pechati, pg. 50. 2015. PDF. Figure 92. Lukashenko, S. N., Kadyrzhanov K.K. Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site: Present State. Republic of Kazakhstan Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology. Pavlodar, Kazakhstan: Press House. pg 11. 2011. PDF.
reference Image index Figure 93-94. “Chagan test.” Museum of the Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology. 1965. Figure 95. Lukashenko, S. N., Kadyrzhanov K.K. Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site: Present State. Republic of Kazakhstan Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology. Pavlodar, Kazakhstan: Press House. pg 13. 2011. PDF.
MLA Thesis 2016-2017
Master of Landscape Architecture Thesis 2017 John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design Toronto, ON
Published on Mar 6, 2018
Master of Landscape Architecture Thesis 2017 John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design Toronto, ON