Ozyorsk – Kyshtym – Mayak Nuclear Waste Reprocessing Center Disaster And Coverup

Mayak; nuclear waste ‘reprocessing’ center

“In 1991, U.S. experts measured a dose rate of 300 to 600 millirems per hour near the shores of the lake, which is three to six times maximum U.S. safety levels. It was estimated that just one minute standing on its shore without full protection would mean certain death. No place in Russia symbolizes the country’s inability to manage the reprocessing of its spent nuclear fuel better than Chelyabinsk region in the Urals with its fields, rivers, and lakes contaminated with deadly radio nuclides. And as Russia speeds toward accepting spent nuclear fuel and waste from abroad for reprocessing and long-term storage in exchange for billions of dollars, environmentalists warn that this lucrative plan will turn Russia into the world’s nuclear dump.

According to a recent report compiled by Russian and Norwegian scientists, the quantity of radioactive materials the Mayak plant has released since it first opened in 1948 is five times greater than every other major accident or nuclear test on earth since then: the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986, the 1957 leak at the British Sellafield nuclear plant, and all the nuclear tests ever conducted.

The current dose of radiation absorbed by Muslyumovo residents is 10 times higher than internationally acceptable levels, according to a study put out by Kostina’s department. Only 18 percent of the village children aged 6 to 14 can be called healthy, while the rest of the children suffer from acute memory loss, attention deficit disorders, and exhaustion.” http://www.wentz.net/radiate/lake/index.htm

Kyshtym disaster

The Kyshtym disaster was a radiation contamination incident that occurred on 29 September 1957 at Mayak, a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Russia (then a part of the Soviet Union). It measured as a Level 6 disaster on the International Nuclear Event Scale, making it the third most serious nuclear accident ever recorded (after the Chernobyl disaster, and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, both Level 7 on the INES scale). The event occurred in the town of Ozyorsk, a closed city built around the Mayak plant. Since Ozyorsk/Mayak (also known as Chelyabinsk-40 and Chelyabinsk-65) was not marked on maps, the disaster was named after Kyshtym, the nearest known town.

A storage facility for liquid nuclear waste was added around 1953. It consisted of steel tanks mounted in a concrete base, 8.2 meters underground. Because of the high level of radioactivity, the waste was heating itself through decay heat (though a chain reaction was not possible). For that reason, a cooler was built around each bank containing 20 tanks. Facilities for monitoring operation of the coolers and the content of the tanks were not adequate.[3]

Ozyorsk today.After World War II, the Soviet Union lagged behind the United States in development of nuclear weapons, so it started a rapid research and development program to produce a sufficient amount of weapons-grade uraniumand plutonium. The Mayak plant was built in a great hurry between 1945 and 1948. Gaps in Soviet physicists’ knowledge about nuclear physics at the time made it difficult to judge the safety of many decisions. Also, environmental concerns were not taken seriously during the early development stage. All six reactors were onLake Kyzyltash and used an open cycle cooling system, discharging irradiated water directly back into the lake.[1] Initially Mayak was dumping high-level radioactive waste into a nearby river, which was taking waste to the river Ob, flowing further down to the Arctic Ocean. Later on, Lake Karachay was used for open-air storage of high level radioactive wastes. It is the largest and most contaminated open air exposed radiation dump on the planet at present.[2]

In September 1957, the cooling system in one of the tanks containing about 70–80 tons of liquid radioactive waste failed and was not repaired. The temperature in it started to rise, resulting in evaporation and a chemical explosion of the dried waste, consisting mainly of ammonium nitrate and acetates(see ammonium nitrate bomb). The explosion, estimated to have a force of about 70–100 tons of TNT threw the concrete lid, weighing 160 tons, into the air.[3] There were no immediate casualties as a result of the explosion, which released an estimated 2 to 50 MCi (74 to 1850 PBq) of radioactivity.[2][4][5]

In the next 10 to 11 hours, the radioactive cloud moved towards the northeast, reaching 300–350 kilometers from the accident. The fallout of the cloud resulted in a long-term contamination of an area of more than 800 square kilometers, primarily with caesium-137 and strontium-90.[2] This area is usually referred to as the East-Ural Radioactive Trace (EURT).[6]

At least 22 villages where exposed to radiation from the disaster with a total population of around 10,000 were evacuated. Some were evacuated after a week but it took almost 2 years for evacuations to occur at other sites.[7]

Village Population Evacuation Time (days) Mean Effective Dose Equivalent (mSv)
Berdyanish 421 7-14 520
Satlykovo 219 7-14 520
Galikayevo 329 7-14 520
Rus. Karabolka 458 250 440
Alabuga 486 250 120
Yugo-Konevo 2045 250 120
Gorny 472 250 120
Igish 223 250 120
Troshkovo 81 250 120
Boyovka 573 330 40
Melnikovo 183 330 40
Fadino 266 330 40
Gusevo 321 330 40
Mal. Shaburovo 75 330 40
Skorinovo 170 330 40
Bryukhanovo 89 330 40
Krivosheino 372 670 40
Kozhakul 631 670 40
Tygish 441 670 40
Chetyrkino 278 670 40
Klyukino 346 670 40
Kirpichiki 160 7-14 5


Because of the secrecy surrounding Mayak, the populations of affected areas were not initially informed of the accident. A week later (on 6 October) an operation for evacuating 10,000 people from the affected area started, still without giving an explanation of the reasons for evacuation. People “grew hysterical with fear with the incidence of unknown ‘mysterious’ diseases breaking out. Victims were seen with skin ‘sloughing off’ their faces, hands and other exposed parts of their bodies.”[8]

Although vague reports of a “catastrophic accident” causing “radioactive fallout over the Soviet and many neighboring states” began appearing in the western press between April 13 and April 14, 1958, it was only in 1976 that Zhores Medvedev made the nature and extent of the disaster known to the world.[9][10]

Even though the Soviet government suppressed information about the figures, it is estimated that the direct exposure to radiation caused at least 200 cases of death from cancer.[11] “In 1992, a study conducted by the Institute of Biophysics at the former Soviet Health Ministry in Chelyabinsk found that 8,015 people had died within the preceding 32 years as a result of the accident.”[1]

To reduce the spread of radioactive contamination after the accident, contaminated soil was excavated and stockpiled in fenced enclosures that were called “graveyards of the earth”.[12]

The Soviet government in 1968 disguised the EURT area by creating the East-Ural Nature Reserve, which prohibited any unauthorised access to the affected area.

Rumours of a nuclear mishap somewhere in the vicinity of Chelyabinsk had long been circulating in the West. That there had been a serious nuclear accident east of the Urals was eventually demonstrated by Zhores Medvedev, who, after his reference to the disaster in a western publication was derided by western nuclear industry sources, showed that numerous Soviet scientific publications on the effects of radiation on plant life, supposedly derived from laboratory experiments, were in fact thinly disguised descriptions of the area contaminated by the disaster.[13]

According to Gyorgy,[14] who invoked the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the relevant Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) files, the CIA knew of the 1957 Mayak accident all along, but kept it secret to prevent adverse consequences for the fledgling American nuclear industry. In 1990 the Soviet government declassified documents pertaining to the disaster.[15][16

Links to related articles:

Ozyorsk- Kyshtym – Mayak Nuclear Waste Reprocessing Center Disaster And Coverup; via AGreen Road Blog http://agreenroad.blogspot.com/2012/03/ozyorsk-kyshtym-mayak-nuclear-waste.html
La Hague; France‘sNuclear Waste Nightmare; via A Green Road Blog http://agreenroad.blogspot.com/2012/03/la-hague-nuclear-waste-nightmare.html 


  1. a b Schlager, Neil (1994). When Technology Fails. Detroit: Gale Research.ISBN 0-8103-8908-8.
  2. a b c “Chelyabinsk-65”.
  3. a b “Conclusions of government commission” (in Russian).
  4. ^ Kabakchi, S. A.; A. V. Putilov (1 1995). “Data Analysis and Physicochemical Modeling of the Radiation Accident in the Southern Urals in 1957”Moscow ATOMNAYA ENERGIYA (1): 46–50.
  5. ^ See also List of military nuclear accidents
  6. ^ Dicus, Greta Joy (January 16, 1997). “Joint American-Russian Radiation Health Effects Research”. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  7. ^ Kostyuchenko, V.A.; Krestinina, L.Yu. (1994). “Long-term irradiation effects in the population evacuated from the East-Urals radioactive trace area”.Science of the Total Environment (Elsevier) 142 (1–2): 119–125.doi:10.1016/0048-9697(94)90080-9PMID 8178130. Retrieved 5/01/2012.
  8. ^ Pollock, Richard (1978). “Soviets Experience Nuclear Accident”. Critical Mass Journal.
  9. ^ Medvedev, Zhores A. Nuclear disaster in the Urals translated by George Saunders. 1st Vintage Books ed. New York : Vintage Books, 1980, c1979, ISBN 0394744454.
  10. ^ Diane M. Soran; Danny B. Stillman (1982). An Analysis of the Alleged Kyshtym DisasterLos Alamos National Laboratory.
  11. a b “The Southern Urals radiation studies: A reappraisal of the current status”Journal of Radiation and Environmental Biophysics 41. 2002.
  12. ^ John R. Trabalka (1979), “Russian Experience” pp. 3–8 in Environmental Decontamination: Proceedings of the Workshop, December 4–5, 1979, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, CONF-791234
  13. ^ The Nuclear Disaster They Didn’t Want To Tell You About/Andrew Cockburn/ Esquire Magazine/ April 26 1978
  14. ^ Gyorgy, A. (1979). No Nukes: Everyone’s Guide to Nuclear Power.ISBN 0919618952.
  15. ^ “The decision of Nikipelov Commission” (in Russian).
  16. ^ R. Jeffrey Smith (Jul 10, 1989). “Soviets Tell About Nuclear Plant Disaster; 1957 Reactor Mishap May Be Worst Ever”The Washington Post: A1.


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