Musluymovo - Nuclear Village of the Damned
Date: Thursday, September 06 @ 12:00:52 MDT
The Russian village of Musluymovoand, the most radioactively contaminated place on earth is at the centre of a battle between a green campaign group and the Kremlin who stand accused of environmental genocide. The green organisation Citizen is taking legal action against the Russian government accusing them of systematically ignoring the plight of thousands of people living near Mayak Chemical Combine. |Read More|
The vast plant was hurriedly built in 1945-48 in total secrecy, as part of the Soviet Union's fledgling
nuclear weapon program. It's original mission was to make manufacture plutonium for weapons, with five
nuclear reactors built for this purpose. Later the plant came to specialize in reprocessing plutonium from
decommissioned weapons, waste from nuclear reactors, and in recent years waste from foreign nations.
The village of Musluymovo straddles the River Techa, which is downstream of the Mayak plant in the
Chelyabinsk region. The Techa feeds into the Ob River, Russia’s fourth longest, and ultimately the Arctic
Ocean. In Musluymovo as many as one in three people are dying of cancer, or are seriously ill due to chronic exposure to radioactive contaminants.
In the early cold war years, the Mayak plant released vast quantities of radioactively contaminated water
into the river and several small lakes near the plant. At a time when all other considerations were secondary to the production of nuclear weapons, a build-now-worry-later mindset was adopted with zero regard for human safety.
In 1951 when the Arctic Ocean began setting off Geiger counters the Soviet government forced Mayak to stop fouling the Techa; a move necessitated by military secrecy rather than concern for public health. There have also been several major accidents resulting in massive contamination of the environment.
The most serious of these was in 1957, when the failure of the cooling system for a tank storing tens of
thousands of tons of waste exploded releasing some 20 MCi (740 petabecquerels) of radioactivity. Subsequently at least 200 people died of radiation sickness, 10,000 people were evacuated and 470,000 people were exposed to radiation. This nuclear accident, the Soviet Union's worst before the Chernobyl disaster, was categorised as a level 6 "serious accident" on the 7 point International Nuclear Events Scale.
A decade later in 1967, a two-year drought caused Lake Karachay to disappear, exposing the bed to the open air. Winds collected the contaminated sediment and dispersed a huge radioactive cloud across a 1200 square kilometer area.
More recently in November 2006 the boss of the Mayak plant Vitaly Sadovnikov, was arrested accused of
violating environmental regulations and allowing the dumping of tens of millions of cubic metres of waste in the Techa river basin between 2001 and 2004.
Despite the magnitude of these nuclear disasters Chelyabinsk’s residents were told little. Fearing that an
outbreak of irradiated citizens would betray the secrecy of its nuclear program, the Kremlin prohibited
doctors in the region from pinpointing and treating the truth. Not until Glasnost in the late 1980s were doctors allowed to say the word cancer. Despite this knowledge residents to this day still naively refer to their radiation-influenced maladies as the “River Disease.”
Some people have been offered money to relocate but many villagers say the resettlement zones are also in contaminated areas. Locals have claimed that they are being used as human guinea pigs for the study of the long-term effects of radiation poisoning.
What is more likely is that they are just victims of Soviet negligent recklessness, an obsessive desire for
secrecy and a callous attitude towards human life in general.
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