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Rosatom's Mayak: More reprocessing, more contamination

Mayak: 60 years after accident, Rosatom continues to threaten people in South Urals

Kiadvány - szeptember 26, 2017
Vienna, 26 September 2017 – A Greenpeace Сentral and Еastern Еurope report released today reveals high levels of strontium in the water near to Rosatom’s Mayak complex 60 years after the the Kyshtym accident in 1957 which continues to contaminate the local Techa river with radioactive substances and threatens the thousand s of people living in a dozen villages along the river’s banks, who use water from the river, eat fish and water and graze their cattle there.

The explosion happened in the evening of 29 September 1957 at the plutonium separation plant. It was rated 6 on the INES scale, which makes it the third most serious nuclear disaster after Chernobyl and Fukushima. It affected the area of 20,000 sq. km populated by about 270,000 residents. 

In late August 2017, Greenpeace experts took water and fish samples from the Techa River. The results show high levels of strontium-90 in the water. High activity of strontium-90 was found in the fish samples, and its traces were detected in meat and vegetables. Strontium-90 is easily taken up in the human body because it chemically mimics calcium. In that way it leads to internal exposure to radiation.

The analysis of samples taken by Greenpeace in July 2017 shows that the level of contamination is approximately the same in the village of Muslyumovo where inhabitants were resettled to a nearby area claimed by Rosatom to be safe, as in other villages located on the Techa banks and that were not resettled.

“The villagers have been fighting for their rights for several decades while Rosatom and the government agencies have persisted in negating the disastrous consequences of the contamination for the local population. Rosatom denies ongoing contamination, though we know liquid radioactive waste is discharged into the environment. The local people still suffer from diseases caused by the long-lasting exposure to radiation“, says Rashid Alimov, coordinator of the anti-nuclear project at Greenpeace Russia.

The secrecy around Mayak, and the lack of transparency in of Rosatom in general, make it difficult to assess the full scale of people’s exposure, and the total number of people who has suffered from the ongoing operation of Mayak. Instead of taking necessary measures, Rosatom claims that all the problems are resolved.

“Rosatom likes to tell its clients that it uses advanced and safe technologies but doesn’t like to show how it treats safety in reality. This new report shows that it doesn’t care, in fact. Rosatom boasts that it has a $130-billion worth portfolio of orders and is building nuclear power stations all over the world. But can we trust it?” says Jan Haverkamp, expert consultant on nuclear energy for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe and the editor of the report. “Can we be sure that the safety issues are taken care of properly when that does not happen at home? Look at how Rosatom treats people around Mayak, and prefers to deny the discharges rather than really tackle them. This report shows that Rosatom’s safety claims lack credibility”.


Jan Haverkamp, expert consultant on nuclear energy for Greenpeace CEE
; +31 621 334 619

Andrey Allakhverdov, Greenpeace CEE communications officer
; +7 925 103 9242

Notes for editors
Link to the report: