Kazakhstan

From 1949 until 1990, the Soviet Union used the Semipalatinsk region of East Kazakhstan as a nuclear testing site. Hidden from the world, this top-secret site (the size of France) was subjected to 607 nuclear explosions, including 26 aboveground tests, 124 atmospheric tests and 457 underground.

After widespread protests by the Kazakh population, President Gorbachev ordered a moratorium on all further tests in 1990.

When the Soviet Union finally collapsed in December 1991, the departing battalions of troops and secret police who had guarded the "Polygon" in East Kazakhstan left a legacy of devastation and sickness.

The 1.5 million population were subjected to the equivalent of 20,000 Hiroshima bombs.

The underground tests polluted watercourses and streams. Farmland has been heavily irradiated. Radioactive contamination has entered the food chain.

Now cancers run at five times the national average. Cancers of the throat, lungs and breasts are particularly common. Twelve-year-old girls have developed mammary cancer. Birth defects are three times the national average. Babies and farm animals are born with terrible deformities. Children are mentally retarded and Downs Syndrome is common. Virtually all children suffer from anaemia. Many of the young men are impotent. Many of the young women are afraid to become pregnant in case they give birth to defective babies. Psychological disorders are rife. Suicides are widespread, especially among young men and even, alarmingly among children. Average life expectancy is 52, compared to 59 outside the Polygon.

An amendment to the 2001 European Budget secured €4 million funding for Semipalatinsk out of the Commission's TACIS fund.

In August 2003, Struan and Kimberley Joseph (star of Cold Feet, Gladiators and Home & Away) delivered $5000 cash aid from NIKE, together with around $2000 worth of sports goods to the beleaguered people of Semipalatinsk.

Struan also raised £20,000 sponsorship to mount an exhibition of photographs taken during the trip to Semipalatinsk, in order to draw attention to the plight of these unwitting victims of the Cold War. The exhibition toured venues including the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, the European Parliament in Brussels, the Department for International Development in Whitehall, Congress in Washington DC and finally, Almaty, Astana and Semipalatinsk itself in Kazakhstan.

In September 2004 Struan won a $50,000 prize in an international essay competition (sponsored by the US-based John Templeton Foundation) for an essay entitled "CRYING FOREVER" charting the suffering of the people of Semipalatinsk.

He donated the entire $50,000 to Mercy Corps Scotland to assist with their work in Semipalatinsk, with half going towards the purchase of equipment for the Oncology Hospital and half to Mercy Corps' micro-credit loan fund.

To date, Struan has raised a staggering $115,000 for the people of Kazakhstan.