Blacksmith Institute Press Release
Cold War-Era Polluter Agrees to Clean Up
U.S. and Russian Environmentalists Team Up
New York, June 7, 2007 -- A Russian chemical and mining company has begun to clean up massive radioactive waste resulting from 30 years of Soviet-era plutonium production in Siberia. It is an unusual commitment that comes as the result of an unusual partnership between independent U.S. and Russian environmental groups.
For the past year, New York-based Blacksmith Institute has been funding the efforts of the Citizens' Center on Nuclear Non-Proliferation (CCNNP), an environmental organization based in Krasnoyarsk (Siberia), to work with the polluter, Mining-Chemical Combine (MCC), to address the problem of radioactive "hot particles" contaminating the Yennisei River and its banks downstream from two plutonium reactors that ceased production in 1992.
More than 64,000 people in the village of Bolchoi Balchug, located immediately downstream of the two reactors, suffer from abnormally high incidences of stomach, lung, and breast cancers - with death rates due to cancer two-and-a-half times higher than in regions outside the polluted zones. The reactors are located in Zheleznogorsk, known in the Soviet era as Krasnoyarsk-26 and one of several closed cities dedicated to weapons production.
"The pollution legacy of the Soviet Union is horrific," said Richard Fuller, director of Blacksmith Institute. "We applaud the work of CCNNP and MCC to clean-up a problem that is affecting the lives of many thousands."
With Blacksmith Institute's help, CCNNP conducted extensive soil testing which confirmed the presence of highly radioactive samples. In addition to testing, the CCNNP conducted a public information campaign to raise awareness of risks and health issues.
Despite widespread awareness of the environmental and health problems posed to residents, including international exposure in an article in the "Washington Post" in 1998, no efforts had been made to clean up the environmental disaster left behind.