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Pollutant: Radioactivity

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1. Region: Eastern Europe & Central Asia

Country: Russia

Mayak NGO/Government Cooperation and Instrument Calibration Project

This project brought together the NGO and local government communities of the area of Chelyabinsk near the Mayak nuclear complex, enabling a fractious relationship to transform into one of mutual cooperation. The intent was to encourage both parties to focus on implementing solutions to radioactive and environmental problems together.

2. Region: Eastern Europe & Central Asia

Country: Russia

Krasnoufimsk Radioactive Waste Removal

Krasnoufimsk is located in Sverdlovsk Oblast (Yekaterinburg) in the Central Urals. 82,000 tons of radioactive monazite concentrate have been stored here since the sixties. Exposure to monazite is linked to increased risk of cancer and is most dangerous when inhaled.

There is a very high incidence of cancer in the Krasnoufimsk district. As of late 2004 there were 990 cases of cancer among district residents (more than double that of other districts). More than half the children suffer from developmental problems. Illnesses of the musculoskeletal system, thyroid gland, and reproductive systems are also common.

The main goal of the project was to raise awareness about the problem and lobby the government for a safe removal of the monazites pollution in the Krasnoufimsk District. Blacksmith funded the local partner NGO raise awareness about the problem and lobby the government for its safe removal.

The monazite was initially obtained because it contains thorium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons. Interest in monazite raw material declined once the uranium-plutonium nuclear fuel cycle began to be adopted.

The monazite is packed in three-layered paper bags of 50 kg, which are stored in wooden boxes. Those are stocked in 23 warehouses (19 made of wooden and 4 made of metal), which were built in the early forties by the Central Administrative Board of Material Reserves (GUMR) of the USSR and initially used for the storage of strategic food stocks. The storage site’s total area is approximately 20 hectares.

Content of thorium in monazite is approx. 5% and content of uranium approx. 0.2%. Thus approximately 4000t tons of thorium (thorium-232) and 160t of uranium (uranium-238) are stored at the area, which represent total radioactive activity of 2.886 ·1014 Bq (7800 Ci).

3. Region: Eastern Europe & Central Asia

Country: Russia

Muslyumova Radioactive Sludge Removal

Muslyumova is located 30 km downstream from the Mayak Chemical Combine on the banks of the River Techa. It was the village most exposed to the Combine's unregulated radioactive discharges from 1949-1956. People living in this town were exposed to 240 millisievert (mSv) between 1950 and 1951 and in 1956 people received an average dose of 350 mSv (maximum exposure level 1mSv=100 mrem).

4. Region: Eastern Europe & Central Asia

Country: Russia

Muslyumova Radioactive Sludge

In 1949, the Soviet Union funded the Mayak plant intended for the manufacturing of weapon’s grade plutonium in Chelyabinsk, in the Southern Urals. All liquid waste products were dumped directly into the Techa river, and eventually high levels of radioactive waste settled along the riverbed. In 1952, 70% of the inhabitants of nearby village Metlino suffered from leukemia, and authorities finally made an appeal to rectify the situation. Resettlement of almost 100,000 people lasted until 1961, the river was dammed in two places, and waste was redirected towards lake Karachaj. Inexplicably, however, every 50 km one village was left behind. This has proven a poor decision, as the plant is to blame for two other nuclear disasters: the explosion of radioactive waste tanks in 1957, and the effects of nuclear fallout from the bottom of lake Karachaj in 1967.

The first of these villages is Muslyumovo, population 2,500. Because the riverbanks confirm high levels of radioactive pollution, the population undergoes chronic exposure and every fourth child is born with some form of genetic mutation. The population is aware of the radiation, but likely doesn’t understand its full implications, as the water is used for drinking, bathing, fishing, and irrigation.

5. Region: Eastern Europe & Central Asia

Country: Russia

Cleaning the Bolshoi riverbank of nuclear waste

During its 30 years of operation, the mining and chemical Combine at Zheleznogorsk discharged its cooling water contaminated with radioactive wastes directly into the Yenisei River. Now, 300 kilometres along the river can be officially declared an environmental disaster zone based on the amount of contamination over that time. The village of Bolshoi Balchug lies immediately downstream from the plant, and at least 64,000 are potentially affected by radionuclides like plutonium-239, cesium-136, and strontium-90.

The main goal of the project was to improve radiation situation in the river bank zone in the Bolshoi Balchug community. Specialists of the Citizens` Center on Nuclear Non- Proliferation have examined the Bolshoi Balchug bank. All "hot" particles found together with surrounding soil were excavated from the riverbank and buried in a proper radioactive waste landfill.

6. Region: Eastern Europe & Central Asia

Country: Russia

Bryansk - Chernobyl Radiation Remediation

One of the most infamous symbols of life-threatening pollution is the Chernobyl reactor, which suffered a meltdown in April 1986. To this day, the settlements closest to the reactor site remain depopulated ghost towns; however, the explosion sent a radioactive cloud over most of Europe, and many regions received a fallout level that, while not quite serious enough to require permanent evacuation, is still more than enough to blight local ecosystems and human communities with radiation poisoning. 110 miles away is the region of Bryansk, of which nearly 2 million acres received a heavy dose of fallout pollution, primarily Cesium-137. Hundreds of thousands of people still inhabit this largely agricultural area, and the greatest danger they face is the ingestion of radioactive particles (or radionuclides) that have accumulated in the meat, fat, and milk of local cattle, as well as the produce from local farms and gardens. In some provinces over 20% of all dairy milk is dangerously contaminated. Children receive the highest exposures to cesium, as they tend to ingest more dairy products than adults and their still-growing bones absorb more pollutants from their food.