Image 1 of 1
© Paul Lowe / Panos Pictures..Semipalatinsk, KAZAKHSTAN. ..Children of workers in Kurchatov play on a giant sculpture of an atom in the centre of the city.  The town is named after the Father of the Russian atomic bomb programme.  Until 1974 it was just called Semipalatinsk 21, and is not marked on maps of the region.  ..On 29th August 1949 the first Russian plutonium bomb was exploded at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, which came to be known as 'The Polygon'. This first detonation was followed by more than 500 nuclear explosions, both atmospheric and underground..The effects in the Semipalatinsk region have been devastating. According to the UN more than 1.2 million people have been contaminated or are living in severely contaminated areas. Of these over 100,000 suffer from radiation related diseases. Even though testing stopped in 1989 the situation is continuing to deteriorate. Two out of every three children born in the region suffer from genetic defects.