Direct quantitative assessment of health risks following exposure to ionizing radiation is based on findings from epidemiological studies. Populations affected by nuclear bomb testing are among those that allow such assessment. The population living around the former Soviet Union's Semipalatinsk nuclear test site is one of the largest human cohorts exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons tests. Following research that started in the 1960s, a registry that contains information on more than 300,000 individuals residing in the areas neighboring to the test site was established. Four nuclear weapons tests, conducted from 1949 to 1956, resulted in non-negligible radiation exposures to the public, corresponding up to approximately 300 mGy external dose. The registry contains relevant information about those who lived at the time of the testing as well as about their offspring, including biological material. An international group of scientists worked together within the research project SEMI-NUC funded by the European Union, and concluded that the registry provides a novel, mostly unexplored, and valuable resource for the assessment of the population risks associated with environmental radiation exposure. Suggestions for future studies and pathways on how to use the best dose assessment strategies have also been described in the project. Moreover, the registry could be used for research on other relevant public health topics.
Keywords: Health effects; Ionizing radiation; Kazakhstan; Nuclear bomb testing; Population registry.