The Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology, the territory of the scientific and experimental unit, the old headquarters building (the late fifties – the early sixties), now the IRSE administrative building.
The idea to establish the Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology (IRSE) arose after Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site was shut down (STS) while a new structure of the test site as a research center was being formed. A decree of RK President, N.A. Nazarbayev No. 409 on the closure of STS was issued on August 29, 1991, and in May of 1992 – a Resolution of the RK Cabinet of Ministers No. 779 “On establishing the National Nuclear Center and the RK Atomic Energy Agency”. According to the Resolution adopted by the RK Cabinet of Ministers dated October 29, 1993 No. 1082, IRSE became part of NNC RK based on military unit 52605.
Military unit 52605 was formed specifically for nuclear testing at STS in June of 1948 in the 4city of Zvenigorod (Moscow region) being a central element forming the test site, and consisted of two basic structural sections – Unit administration and Scientific and technical subdivisions (scientific and experimental unit) based on which IRSE was subsequently set up. A commander of the military unit – a test site chief managed the activity in each subdivision of the test site. A lieutenant general P.M. Rozhanovich was the first commander and M.A. Sadovky was an academic adviser of military unit 52605.
By the end of 1948 there were a few departments operating on the scientific sector: department of physical measurements, biological and armament department, and each consisted of laboratories. The Institute of Chemical Physics (ICP), USSR Academy of Sciences, headed by academician N.N. Semyonov who gave lectures on fundamentals of nuclear physics in person, became the main base for personnel training in the sector of physical measurements. M.A. Sadovky was the academic adviser of test site officers. At that time he was also a Deputy Director of this Institute. Personnel was trained by sepcialists from the Institute of Chemical Physics O. I. Leipunsky, I. L. Zelmanov, G.L. Shnirman, P. А. Yampolsky, V. B. Miller and some others. The same specialists became academic advisers of respective laboratories of the sector. Specialists of the State Optics Institute, headed by professor M.A. Yelyashevich, were also involved in officers training. The Burdenko General Hospital and the Institute of Biophysics, USSR Academy of Medical Sciences became the main centers of biology sector employees training.
The hero of the socialist labour (1949), laureate of the Lenin (1962) and four State Prizes AS USSR (1966). One of the outstanding specialists in explosion physics. During the years of the Great Patriotic War he worked as a chief of explosion physics department of the Institute of Chemical physics of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1943, he determined a functional dependence of shock wave on the amount of trotyl detonated. Later “Sadovky’s formula” was improved with respect to nuclear explosion and was ubiquitously used to determine a so-called trotyl equivalent of nuclear blast yield. Since 1946 M.A. Sadovky being a Deputy Director of the Institute of Chemical Physics of Academy of Sciences (ICP AS) headed a special sector on experimental research into all of the parameters for a nuclear explosion. In 1946 М.А. Sadovsky was appointed the first academic advisor of Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. He held that position for up to 1968 greatly contributing to the theory and practice of nuclear tests. In 1949 after the first nuclear bomb was tested М.А. Sadovky was awarded the Stalin Prize and the rank of the Hero of the Socialist Labour. Since 1958 upon insistence of I.V. Kurchatov, Sadovky was involved in solution to a problem related to nuclear test ban and control of compliance with potential agreements in this field. Since 1968 being a head of the Institute of Earth Physics AS USSR, М.А. Sadovky was for a long time an academic adviser for that development by efforts of USSR Minsredmash (Ministry of Medium Machine Building) with an automated equipment complex of seismic stations.
The organizational and staff structure of the scientific and experimental unit was repeatedly modified since membership and types of subdivisions depended a lot on specific experimental tasks. Initially, the testing program set the following major tasks: physical, biological observations, observations of the explosion impact on different types of structures and armaments. It then became necessary to undertake a more detailed study of radiation effects of nuclear explosions, particularly, radioactive contamination of the area. To that end a radiochemical laboratory was removed from the structure of the former sector of physical measurements and a radiation line was created on its basis. A biological sector was transformed into a medical and biological line with a stronger focus on issues of the study of nuclear effects on bioobjects.
Before testing the first Soviet nuclear charge it was clear from the American experience that a nuclear explosion, especially at low altitudes and on the ground surface, is followed by radioactive fallouts. Therefore, a radiochemical laboratory was set up for research into radioactive contamination of the area on the scientific and experimental unit from the very beginning of tests. After testing at STS, it became obvious that it was necessary to undertake far more detailed studies of processes of radioactively contaminated areas including formation of fission fragments and isotopes of induced activity, formation of radioactive particles, their compositions, properties, behavior in the air and many other things. Therefore, a separate radiation focus area was set up. For nuclear effects to be studied relative to living organisms and, eventually, to personnel and population, a medical and biological line of research was established which existed until the test site was disbanded. A special attention was paid to effects of ionizing radiation since this pathology was hardly studied at that time. Radiation problem arose only after the first nuclear explosions. This challenge had to be virtually solved from scratch and the Test Site became a place to study it intensively. In fact, the foundation of medical radiology and radiobiology was laid down at STS, initial recommendations were developed for radiation protection and radiation safety standards. A group of specialists including those of the STS scientific and experimental unit were awarded the State USSR Prize for their work in radiation medicine in 1969.
On August 29, 1991 the Decree No. 409 issued by Kazakh SSR President N.А.Nazarbayev Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site was shut down. Nuclear tests conducted at this test site were discontinued forever. All of the sites and objects of the former test site were released to the newly set up National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan (NNC RK). By June of 1994 the last Russian military units including military unit 52605 located in the test site territory left Kazakhstan. Together with military units most of scientific sector personnel left Kurchatov, much of instrumentation was moved out. Akhmetzhan Tleubayevich Seisebayev, Doctor of Biological Sciences became the first Director of the Institute who faced the most difficult period – organization and formation of the Institute. Laboratories of the scientific sector of the military unit became part of the IRSE scientific and instrumentation basis. Subsequently, the instrumentation basis of the Institute was greatly enhanced while implementing several international projects and being awarded a number of international grants, first of all, ISTC, NATO, IAEA Projects. Among key personnel there were staff members of the scientific and experimental unit G.S.Smagulova, V.А Azarov, V.Yu. Sergeyev and others. To enhance human resources of the Institute, a decision was made to establish an Almaty IRSE Department based on the NNCR Institute of Nuclear Physics, headed by А.V.Yushkov. From among the INP staff, apart from А.V.Yushkov, S. Khazhekber, O.I. Artyomyev, N.N. Lashkul and others were actively involved in division activities. Since 1995 the last chief of radiation safety service, Candidate of Technical Sciences, S.G. Smagulov was an IRSE Director. From 1997 to the middle of 2002 the Institute was headed by M.A. Akhmetov, later by L.D. Ptitskaya until May of 2006. 2006 through 2018, Sergei Nikolayevich Lukashenko was a Director of the branch “IRSE”, NNC RK.
Seisebayev Akhmetzhan Tleubayevich
Seisebayev Akhmetzhan Tleubayevich, Doctor of Biological Sciences, who encountered the most difficult period during which the Institute was being set up and formed, was the first Director of the Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology, National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan (IRSEЭ).
In 1957 A.T. Seisebayev (01.01.1936 - 02.04.2017) graduated from the Agronomy Faculty of the State Kazakh Agriculture Institute (Alma-Ata city) and for 2 years worked as a chief agronomist in Ulytau state farm of Karaganda region. Then in 1959, he took the post-graduate course under the Institute of Botany AS Kazakh SSR.
In 1964 Akhmetzhan Tleubayevich defended a Candidate’s thesis on the subject “Comparative study of the impact of various factors on corn variability” majoring in Genetics. After defending А.Т. Seisebayev took the lead of a radiation cytogenetics laboratory of the Institute of Botany AS Kazakh SSR and headed it for 30 years. В 1969 awarded an academic title as a senior staff scientist majoring in Radiobiology.
In 1959–1992 A.T. Seisebayev was a Ph.D. student, a junior staff scientist, a senior staff scientist and a head of laboratory in the Institute of Botany, Institute of Nuclear physics and the Institute of Experimental Biology AS Kazakh SSR. In 1991 he defended a Ph.D thesis on the subject of “Modification of radiosensitivity and mutational variability in plants” majoring in Radiobiology and Genetics.
After Semipalatinsk Test Site (СИП) was shut down in 1992 Akhmetzhan Telubayevich was transferred to a newly established “National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan”, Kurchatov city. He was entrusted to set up the Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology NNC RK. In such highly tough and strenuous conditions along with the development of a scientific line of the Institute, proper skills of an administrator and an economic executive had to be gained. A well coordinated team, consisting of the first Directors of the Institute on NNC RK headed by Gadlet Andiyanovich Batyrbekov, designed a Republican industrial scientific and technical program “Development of atomic energy in the Republic of Kazakhstan”, viability of which had been verified with time, and defined a strategic line for the Center and, respectively, for IRSE. This program had biological lines of research managed and supervised by A.T. Seisebayev. As a result of organizational, technical and creative activity Akhmetzhan Tleubayevich made a substantial contribution to organization and formation of the Institute.
Smagulov Samat Gabdrasilovich
In 1995 Smagulov Samat Gabdrasilovich was appointed to the position of the Director of the Institute (1995–1997).
S.G. Smagulov (14.07.1946 - 11.07.2014) was a retired colonel, Candidate of Technical Sciences . In 1970 Samat Gabdrasilovich graduated from Tomsk Polytechnic University majoring in “Radiation chemistry”. After graduation he was sent to the Service of Special Inspection of the Ministry of USSR Defense.
S.G. Smagulov worked at Semipalatinsk Test Site between 1970 and 1998 during frequent underground nuclear tests.
Between 1970 and 1975 he oversaw environmental radioactivity in order to identify nuclear debris of explosions conducted at other test sites; between 1975 and 1989 he was directly involved in over 100 nuclear tests; 1988 to 1994 – a chief of the Radiation Safety Service of Semipalatinsk Test Site. 1994 to 1995 he held the position of a Department head.
Being a Director S.G. Smagulov was actively engaged in defining IRSE scientific priorities and solving priority tasks as well as made a significant contribution to laborious and labour-intensive management of work on elimination of the entire infrastructure of nuclear weapon tests at STS that assisted in successfully and timely implemented international tripartite agreements of RK (Kazakhstan, Russia, the USA).
Samat Gabdrasilovich (in co-authorship) was awarded the RF Governmental Prize in science and technology (1996) for successfully completed operations on dismantling of the last nuclear charge at Semipalatinsk Test Site.
From S.G. Smagulov’s memories: “Nuclear and explosive technologies were designed and tried out so seriously like no others in the history of mankind. The Soviet nuclear program, reportedly, proved to be none the worse and largely even more effective than the American pioneer one. We have something to be proud of!” (S. Smagulov. Tokens of fate. Nuclear warhead test operator’s reminiscences. – Sarov, 2012. – 212 p.).
Akhmetov Murat Abdrashitovich
In June of 1997 Akhmetov Murat Abdrashitovich was appointed an IRSE director.
In 1975 M.A. Akhmetov (date of birth - April 4, 1953) graduated the Novosibirsk State University majoring in Physics, Candidate of Technical Sciences (2001). Being the chief of the RK Atomic Energy Agency Department he first came to Kurchatov in November of 1993 along with the first IAEA’s mission to the test site.
Later M.A. Akhmetov would repeatedly come to Kurchatov to accompany foreign and international expert teams as well as to participate in research projects and conferences.
Over the period of working as a Director he showed profound expertise, scrupulously gained insight into a task that was set and soon found optimal ways of solution. Since Murat Abdrashitovich correctly and clearly set tasks and being at the same time an intellectual with a big heart, he was easy to work with.
In M.A. Akhmetov’s time radioecological, medical and biological studies continued, natural environment was being restored and health of people was being recovered in regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan where explosions were conducted and there were enterprises of atomic industry and facilities.
Under Murat Abdrashitovich’s guidance, the Institute began the first areal research into test site territory. First of all it concerned the central part along radioactive plumes passing from venues of atmospheric tests in southern and south-eastern directions and then the staff proceeded with research into the southern part of the test site. That was the territory of the Abralinsk region in the south of STS of 1,332 km2. Afterwards, there were environmental measures developed and implemented for radioactively contaminated areas, suggestions to use those areas in the national economy.
While heading IRSE NNC RK, M.A. Akhmetov made a significant contribution to work management on elimination of nuclear weapons infrastructure at STS which assisted in successfully and timely implemented RK international agreements. For a great personal contribution to nuclear tests remediation in Kazakhstan he was awarded a “Yeren yenbegi ushin” medal on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the test site closure (August 27, 2001).
Larisa Denisovna Ptitskaya
In 2002, the Institute was taken over by Larisa Denisovna Ptitskaya.
L.D. Ptitskaya (date of birth - February 23, 1941) started her labour activity in 1967 as an engineer of “Kazgidromet” enterprise right after graduation from the Kazakh State University. After 2 years she became the head of supervisory service for radioactive contamination of the natural environment in the territory of Kazakhstan and Central Asia.
In 1986 for her conscientious work L.D. Ptitskaya was awarded a USSR national decoration – a “For Distinguished labour” medal and in 1991 she was awarded a “Labour Veteran” medal. Besides, Larisa Denisovna was involved in remediation of the Chernobyl NPP accident.
In 1995 Larisa Denisovna, as an experienced specialist in radioecology, was employed by NNC RK to the position of an IRSE Deputy Director for Science, then transferred to the position of a Director.
Larisa Denisovna was a scientific and research supervisor in radioecology for the territory of the former Semipalatinsk Test Site, an executive officer for assessment of radioecological situation all over the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan, a project manager as part of the INTAS program. In her time the Republican budget program “STS. Radiation Safety Assurance” began. For the last 3 years of 17 that she had worked, she was a Deputy Director for Radiation Safety Assurance at Semipalatinsk Test Site.
Under the guidance of L.D. Ptitskaya a methodical hardware basis was created and introduced. The basis allows to get down to radiochemical and gamma-spectrometric analyses and above all start determining isotopes of weapon-grade plutonium in samples collected. At the same time a new team of young specialists was being formed for radioecological research. A great attention was given to advanced training. Biological research began.
Apart from radioecological research, L.D. Ptitskaya contributed a lot to elimination of military infrastructure in the STS territory. She was directly involved in defense of the Ministry of Ecology prepared by the Environmental Impact Assessment Institute to destroy 181 tunnels, a few dozens of boreholes and consequences of “Omega” experiments. Larisa Denisovna supervised scientific and research programs under INTAS and ISTC.
Lukashenko Sergey Nikolayevich
In 2006 Sergey Nikolayevich Lukashenko was appointed a Deputy Director General for Radioecology, National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan as well as an IRSE Director.
In 1986 S.N. Lukashenko (date of birth – December 14, 1962) graduated from the Lensovet Leningrad Institute (Technical University), engineering physics and chemistry faculty majoring in “Radiaiton Chemistry”. In 1986 he was sent to the Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP) of the Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences and placed on the radioactive isotope laborator.
Sergey Nikolayevich worked in the laboratory until 1997 from being a lab-assistant to a junior staff scientist. In 1997 he was appointed a head of Applied Nuclear Physics Department (ANPD), the Institute of Nuclear Physics and held this position as long as 2006. Over that period with S.N. Lukashenko directly involved a new laboratory for low-background measurements was established (LLM) which he headed until 2006.
After being assigned to the position of the Deputy Director General for Radioecology NNC RK Sergey Nikolayevich was also charged with Institute management.
Over the period S.N. Lukashenko worked the Institute expanded its scope of activities including such areas as development of individual dosimetry methods, development of new methods to determine internal exposure doses, development of new methods for radioactive waste treatment. S.N. Lukashenko also greatly contributed to proficiency of Institute’s young scientists.
Under the guidance of Sergey Nikolayevich, the Institute began large-scale radiobiological and radioecological research. The first full-scale experiments were set up in the territory of Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS). Methodological approaches were developed and scientifically justified for assessing contamination levels of aquatic environment, air basin, vegetation cover based on regularities of artificial radionuclides transfer in “water-bottom sediments”, soil-air”, “soil-vegetation cover” systems and numerical parameters obtained to characterize these regularities.
An experimental and theoretical assessment of the quality of farm products produced at STS was made and the possibility to produce it with a guaranteed quality in terms of radiation was proved. In 2016 S.N. Lukashenko defended a doctoral thesis (Doctor of Biological Sciences) “Radioecological justification to return areas of Semipalatinsk Test Site to the economic use: fundamental and applied aspects”.