Lake Karachay - The Traveller


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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lake Karachay

Lake Karachay
Lake Karachay – Largest Leakiest Nuclear Facilities 

LakeKarachay is a small lake in Russia on the south west Chelyabinsk region which is close to the modern border with Kazakhstan and placed within the Mayak Production Association. It is one of the country’s largest leakiest nuclear facilities.

Built in top secret and in great haste somewhere between 1945 and 1948, the Mayak plant was at first a reactor for the creation of plutonium for the Soviet atomic bomb project. Following the procedure of Stalinist as well as supervised by NKVD Chief Lavrenti Beria, the production of large number of weapons grade material matching the U.S. nuclear superiority that followed the atomic bombing of Nagaski and Hiroshima was the highest priority, uncaring on the expenses for the same.

Workers’ safety or responsibilities on the disposal of material were not taken into consideration and the reactors were optimized for plutonium production resulting in tons of contaminated materials with utilization of primitive open cycle cooling systems that directly contaminated thousands of gallons of cooling water which the reactors used each day.

Lake Karachay 1
Safety Measures Overlooked

Being too keen in catching up with the technological development of western weapons, the engineers at Mayak did not pay much heed to any safety measures, the outcome of which ended in the facility suffering from various major accidents in the early fifties and sixties.

The lake being the largest natural water body in providing cooling water to the reactors, were getting contaminated by the open cycle system. Being closer but small to provide cooling water, it soon became a convenient dumping spot for high level radioactive waste and the Soviet Union used Karachay as a dumping site for radioactive waste from Mayak.

Built in the 40s as Soviets moved their armament production east in order to avoid the Nazi invasion, Mayak became one of Russia’s most important nuclear weapons factories whichwere beyond limits to foreigners for around 45 years.

Most Polluted Area 

It was only after the1992 signed decree by President Boris Yeltsin on the opening of the area, that the Western scientists were able to access and a report from Washington D.C based Worldwatch Institute declared it as the most polluted area on the planet. Radioactivity level was measured at 4.44 exabecquerels which was almost comparable to the entire level distributed across a larger area by the Chernobyl disaster.

As per the Natural Resources Defence Council, the lake seemed to be polluted to such an extent that its waters could kill a human being within an hour.The lake began drying up in 1960s and a drought in 1968 accompanied with strong wind carried the radioactive dust from that area affecting half a million people with levels which were similar to the Hiroshima during the atomic bombing incident.

 This resulted in the lake being filled with 10,000 hollow convert blocks between 1978 and 1986 which were to keep the sediment from shifting. Some are speculating if there is a possibility of cleaning the area and fear that the radiation could contaminate the Tetscha River as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

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