On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the world’s second largest radiation accident, at Mayak in the Southern Urals, Greenpeace Russia has released a special report about the ongoing impacts of the Mayak tragedy. On the anniversary itself, Greenpeace will join local people in a protest rally in the nearby city of Chelyabinsk, to call for the relocation of those still living in contaminated areas and an end to Russia’s plans to import and reprocess even more foreign waste at the Mayak site.
Ramzis has hydrocephalus. “I don’t like to go to school, because the boys call me bad names. The girls avoid me and don’t want to go out with me. I hope I will not have children who look like me.” Ramzis lives near Mayak, the site of a former Russian nuclear plant and the most radioactively polluted place on Earth.
The explosion in September 1957 exposed 272,000 people to
significant radiation. Half a century later, Mayak is one of the
most radioactive places on earth, and the accident continues to
have a devastating legacy. Many thousands of people have never been
evacuated from contaminated areas. In surrounding towns and
villages people have cancer rates more than double the Russian
average. Yet, rather than learning the lessons of the tragedy, the
Russian government has passed legislation to import spent nuclear
fuel from other countries to Mayak that would then permanently stay
at the plant.
"Although the explosion was the worst, it was one of many
accidents at the Mayak plant, where disasters have included
radioactive waste being poured straight into the Techa River, which
is actively used as source of water by thousands of people," said
Vladimir Tchouprov of Greenpeace Russia. "None of the countries
shipping their dirty nuclear waste to Russia would allow Mayak to
continue operating on their own land.
"Countries considering sending their radioactive waste to Russia
are abdicating responsibility for their nuclear activities by
dumping it somewhere else. They may like to think that once it's
out of their sight they've got rid of the problem, but nothing
could be further from the truth. The people who will suffer its
devastating effects are right here, the same victims that have
suffered the effects of radiation disaster for the last 50
The foreign fuel processed in Mayak so far has led to some three
million cubic metres of radioactive liquid being dumped and
released into the environment. Mayak has reprocessed over 1,540
tons of spent nuclear fuel from several countries including
Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland and the Czech Republic. Russian
authorities now hope to negotiate future reprocessing contracts
with Switzerland, Spain, South Korea, Slovenia, Italy, Belgium, and
"With its 50 year contamination legacy, Mayak is a horrific
example of the true face of the global nuclear industry," said Jan
Beranek, Greenpeace International Nuclear Energy Project Leader.
"The world must learn the lessons of Mayak, and the anniversary
must serve as a wake up call to the world about the real costs of
nuclear power. Nuclear power undermines the solutions to climate
change, by diverting resources away from the massive investment in
renewable technologies and energy efficiency the world urgently
needs to tackle the climate crisis (2)."
Other contacts: Greenpeace Russia: Vladimir Chuprov +7-951-7878204, Zhenya Belyakova +7-951-7878296Greenpeace International: Jan Beranek, +31 651 109 558
Notes: 1.A background media briefing on the Mayak tragedy is available at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/mayak-a-50-year-tragedy2. Greenpeace’s Energy Revolution blueprint is available at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/energyrevolutionreport3. Executive summary is available at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/energy-r-evolutionsummary