Welcome to Kurchatov & the Polygon
The town of Kurchatov (Курчатов), 120km west of Semey, was the command centre for the Semipalatinsk Polygon, the Soviet Union's primary nuclear test sites. The nuclear testing zone itself stretched some 100km to 120km south and west from Kurchatov. Today, the rather desolate town is home to Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Centre, which, among other things, works on the development of nuclear power in Kazakhstan. You can travel freely to the town and have a walk around; the central square is dominated by the large, Stalinist-neoclassical town hall (formerly the Polygon's headquarters), and a rather manic-looking statue of Igor Kurchatov himself, the director of the Soviet atomic-bomb program. But to visit desolate Polygon, parts of it still emitting dangerous levels of radiation, you need to organise a tour in advance.