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Kazakh poet-ambassador: anti-nuclear and pro-fusion
Excitement was tangible among the invited guests and journalists when Olzhas Suleimenov, one of the most influential and respected poets and writers in modern Kazakhstan, visited the French pavilion and the ITER exhibition at EXPO 2017 Astana last Friday 16 June.
Initiator of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement, which campaigned to close nuclear testing sites in Kazakhstan and the US, former Ambassador to Rome, and Ambassador to UNESCO for the Kazakh government from 2001 to 2014. Suleimenov spoke with ITER Newsline on fusion and ITER.
It is a great honour to be here with you today. What brought you to visit the ITER exhibition at EXPO 2017?
One of the most influential and respected poets and writers in modern Kazakhstan (and his country's Ambassador to UNESCO), Olzhas Suleimenov spoke with ITER Newsline on fusion and ITER.
I was invited to visit many pavilions at the EXPO, but it was a particular wish to visit the French Pavilion. I know France and its capabilities very well. It was interesting for me to see how the problems that we are all concerned with are being approached currently.
I was very happy to see the stand of the ITER Project, which proposes the important project of bringing the energy of the Sun to Earth. I agree with the idea behind this project because homo sapiens initially used the energy of the Sun and realized its importance in supporting life on Earth.
It is wonderful that this international project involves the efforts of many scientists and engineers from different countries. As an engineer and geologist I understand that this kind of project requires decades of work. It is possible that many decades will be needed before we have this source of energy, which will save us from using coal, oil, hydrogen and nuclear technologies that are harmful for the human race. That is why I was happy to see that this kind of project is underway; it will certainly attract the attention of our local specialists. I will be talking about the ITER Project here in Kazakhstan and not only.
Your movement was instrumental in stopping nuclear tests at the Semipalatinsk site in Kazakhstan, yet you are supportive of this new nuclear technology called fusion?
Certainly. Nuclear fission will continue to be needed until we develop an alternative solution. Our Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement has been putting all its effort for more than twenty years into stopping any initiative to develop nuclear energy at an industrial level here in Kazakhstan, even though our country is one of the main producers of uranium. We believe that we can develop and use other sources of energy such as wind, solar power, etc. and wait the moment when nuclear fusion works.
If the scientists and engineers manage to do this, then we will have the possibility of using a safe nuclear energy technology that won't damage nature for centuries. Fusion technology does not produce highly irradiated, long-life nuclear waste. That is why fusion energy needs to be developed as soon as possible, as humanity's solution for the future.
Are you aware that Kazakhstan signed a technical Cooperation Agreement with ITER recently? There now will be the possibility for exchanges between scientists on very advanced technology ...
I didn't know, but I am very happy to hear that. It is very important for Kazakhstan and I hope that it is the same for the ITER Project.
In the Kazakh language "ITER" (kaz: итер) means "to push"—only a small detail but one that, as a writer, I pay attention to. This project has to push the boundaries of science and technology in order to realize as soon as possible plans for our future energy mix—plans that could help to save humanity.
[Interview edited for brevity.]
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