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A group claiming to be anonymous nuclear workers has warned the Russian president, the prime minster and the “global public” that a disaster is brewing at Russia’s Mayak Chemical Combine that will outdo all previous natural and industrial disasters in an letter sent to several newspapers in the Chelyabinsk Region where the plant is located.
The Mayak plant was built in 1945–48, in a great hurry and in total secrecy, as part of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapon program. The plant's original mission was to make, refine, and machine plutonium for weapons. Five nuclear reactors were built for this purpose. Later the plant came to specialize in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from nuclear reactors, and plutonium from decommissioned weapons. Today the plant makes tritium and radioisotopes, but no plutonium. In recent years, proposals that the plant reprocess, for money, waste from foreign nuclear reactors have given rise to controversy.
Mayak’s contaminated history
Mayak, located in the closed nuclear town of Ozersk, is Russia’s only operational facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from VVER-440 type reactors and spent fuel from nuclear submarines, and has long borne the moniker of being the most radioactively contaminated place on earth. It also takes fuel from other countries that it has little hope of reprocessing.
In 1957, it saw the so-called Kytshym disaster – the precursor to Chernobyl – when a waste storage tank exploded, spreading radioactivity throughout the region and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands. It was dubbed the Kyshtym disaster by Soviet nuclear authorities to divert attention to a neighboring town where they said a conventional power plant had exploded.
Thousands were press-ganged – included children and pregnant women – into cleaning up the nuclear fallout with little more than rags. The legacy remain today in highly irradiated land, elevated cancer rates and birth deformities.
In 2000, disaster was only barley averted when the cooling system to the plutonium reactor operated on the Mayak site was knocked out by inclement weather.
In 2003, the plant briefly lost its operational license over radioactive leakage into area rivers. Yet still, the Techa River cascade remains irradiated with liquid radioactive waste from the reprocessing facility from years of dumping.
And nearby Lake Karachai, which also used to be a dump for liquid waste, is fast evaporating, exposing radionuclides to the atmosphere when they are picked up by wind and spread throughout the region.
Letter reopens old corruption case
According to the Moscow Times, the allegations are not new, and were originally brought by a Chelyabinsk blogger in 2009.
Ensuing checks of the piping and sewage system revealed numerous serious violations that were taken up by the regional economic crimes unit, which filed criminal charges, but they were later dropped, the authors of the letter said.
The website of the prosecutor general for the Urals Federal District on Friday announced that Zolotov has ordered a reexamination the decision to close the original investigation into the alleged use of counterfeit Chinese piping in repair works at Mayak.
"The natural disasters and technological accidents of the past are nothing compared with the nuclear Armageddon that awaits us!" the authors said, according to Novy Raion and various other regional newspapers.
Originally posted by lewman
wow scary, i wonder what the full effect of this scenario coming true would be?
In the late 1940's, about 80 kilometers north of the city of Chelyabinsk, an atomic weapons complex called "Mayak" was built. Its existence has only recently been acknowledged by Russian officials. Mayak, bordered to the west by the Ural Mountains, and to the north by Siberia, was the goal of Gary Powers's surveillance flight in May of 1960.
For forty-five years, the Chelyabinsk province of Russia was closed to all foreigners. Only in January of 1992 did President Boris Yeltsin sign a decree changing that. As a result, western scientists who studied the region, declared Chelyabinsk to be the most polluted spot on earth.
Impact of the Environmental Crisis
Soon after the Mayak nuclear complex became operational, death and diseases in the region increased dramatically due to the dumping of medium and high level radioactive waste into the river system. As a result, 22 villages on the riverbanks, in a 50 km downstream zone from the complex, were evacuated. The village of Muslymova, just outside the 50 km zone was particularly contaminated, but it was never evacuated. Muslyumova lies 45 km north west of Chelyabinsk city and has 4,000 inhabitants. The village had no wells and until recent years depended on the river Techa, for drinking water.
The villagers of Muslyumova grew increasingly ill following contamination of their water. The number of birth defects and cancer deaths soared, but the authorities refused to take remedial measures. Statistics show that gene-mutations in the villages just outside the evacuated zone were 15 times the average for the Russian Federation. The local authorities attributed the high level of birth defects among newborns and the high mortality rates to a low standard of living.
The reservoirs filled with liquid radioactice waste in Mayak is about to flow over. The governor of the Chelyabinsk region is now warning against a radioactive disaster that may affect the river system leading to the Ob in Siberia and the Arctic Ocean.
In a shocking letter sent to the Russian prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, this summer, the district governor of Chelyabinsk, Pyotr Sumin, writes that within three or four years the water reservoirs will have reached their maximum capacity. In the letter, disclosed by the environmental group Ecodefense, Sumin warns about catastrophic consequences.
"One of the biggest and most acute problems is the risk of the ponds giving after and consequently a flood which would inflict serious consequences on the river system leading to Iset, Tobol and Ob."
The district governor goes on: "The situation has been reported repeatedly to the president, the government and the federation council. Unfortunately, in spite of a number of declarations and recommendations from the security council, nothing has been done in order to initiate any remedial actions to prevent the flooding of radioactive water."
The situation was particularly critical this spring, due to substantial amounts of melt water. Only 26 cm prevented the water to overflow the bottom rampart of reservoir number 11. The majority of the radioactivity is located in this reservoir. On a total, the radioactivity is calculated to 10,5 PBq of Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. By comparison, the British reprocessing plant Sellafield operates with a maximum discharge limit into the Irish Sea, of 100 TBq.
As means of reducing the water level of the reservoirs the vice governor, Pyo Sumin, expressed a wish to resume the building of the South Ural nuclear plant. The nuclear plant will be put up right next to the water reservoirs, and will use the water reservoirs as cooling water. In this way, they hope to reduce the water level of the reservoirs.
The local environmental activist in Chelyabinsk, Natalia Mironova, defines this project as dangerous.
"Imagine what would happen if one of the ramparts gave in and the water would flow out. The nuclear plant would lose its cooling water for their reactors, and a new Tsjernobyl accident would be reality", Mironova says.
Japan has begun dumping more than 11.5 million litres of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific.
Every year, 10 million m3 of liquid radioactive waste are dumped in the water reservoirs along the Techa River. Today, radioactive water is held back from the river system only by a simple rampart, which would easily be torn down by heavy rains.
Originally posted by FreeSpeaker
reply to post by colin42
I agree with you. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle. Nuclear power will be used but, as we both agree, private corporations and even governments should not be in control of it. We need a international body with experts from all over the world to govern nuclear power. When a accident happens we need immeadiate action, not weeks or months of assesment before a decision that affects lives is made.
If there ever was a more blatant case of money being put before lives I have yet to find it.
Originally posted by MrSandman
That is just unbelievable.
The Russians need to be held accountable for this
Originally posted by Steve8511
Gee like the UN? Americans holding their government accountable is they only way.