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Friday
Sep292017

Remembering Mayak, the nuclear disaster that no one talks about

To most, a major nuclear accident means Chernobyl or Fukushima. But the world's third most deadly nuclear disaster happened 60 years ago, on September 29, 1957, at the Mayak plutonium production facility, in a closed Soviet city. High-level nuclear waste had already been dumped for years into the nearby Techa river, still contaminated today with high levels of cesium 137, strontium 90 and plutonium. When Karatchai Lake, also used as a nuclear waste dump, was drained in 1967, radioactive dust particles were lofted into the air and dispersed far and wide. But the huge explosion at Mayak was kept secret for decades. Villages were bulldozed leaving people with nothing, "even the possibility to have kids," says exiled Russian activist, Nadezda Kutepova (pictured at left with local woman), who fought for medical treatment and benefits for residents. Swiss activist, Stefan Füglister, says the crime of Mayak was that the health and safety of inhabitants was deliberately and knowingly sacrificed to the arms race. "Compared to the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the workers of Mayak, the inhabitants of the valley of the Techa, as well as those in the downfall area of the bomb trial site of Semipalatinsk, were exposed to higher collective - and in some cases - also to higher individual doses," he said. Yet Mayak, now public, still seems like a secret.