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of the dam failures had not been published at the time that my colleagues and I made our analyses. However, in 1998, a Russian publication on the distribution of radionuclides on the floodplains of the Techa River was released.3 These data could have been utilized to validate or reject the results of the modeling and the projected doses to people utilizing the floodplain area.

One of the suggestions in the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis report, based on some Russian work, was to divert the Techa River upstream of Mayak to the Karabolka River, thereby reducing the amount of water flowing through the Techa River system. No mention is made of this diversion, although there have been stories of such construction. The authors also update us on the filling in of Karachai Lake. The work is 95 percent complete. The discussion of its present impact states that the “forecasts of how the situation may develop over a fairly long period (300 years) indicate that in the future there will be practically no radiologically significant discharge of contaminated groundwater into the open hydrographic network.”4 There is no mention of the closure of water wells in the vicinity that had been an imminent threat earlier nor the likely effect after 300 years.

The environmental discharges from the Mayak enterprise are often compared with those from the Hanford site in the United States. Both were the first production sites for plutonium in their respective countries. However, the resemblance ends there. Though the number of becquerels (curies) discharged to the respective rivers—Techa and Columbia—are similar, the Hanford wastes were almost entirely short-lived induced radioactive nuclides, while the Mayak wastes also consisted of many long-lived fission products. Further, the flow in the Columbia River at that point averages 3,500 m3 per second5 and in the Techa River at its mouth the flow was 7 m3 per second. Consequently, with much lower releases of long-lived radionuclides and much greater dilution, the effects of liquid radioactive releases to the environment have been much lower in the Hanford region than they have been in the Mayak region.6 For example, no people were displaced from their homes on the Colombia River, while more than 8,000 were moved from the Techa River sites.

The impact of the releases of iodine-131 to the atmosphere from the Hanford


Govorun, A. P., A. V. Chenokov, and S. B. Shcherbak. 1998. Distribution of 131Cs inventory in the floodplain of the Techa River in the Muslyumovo village region. Atomic Energy 84(6).


Glagolenko et al., op. cit.


Evans, R. G., M. J. Hattendorf, and C. T. Kincaid. February 2000. Evaluation of the Potential for Agricultural Development at the Hanford Site, PNNL-13125. Available online at


Akleyev, A. V., and M. F. Kisselyov, scientific editors (translators K. M. Zhidkova and K. A. Akleyeva). 2002. Medical-Biological and Ecological Impacts of Radioactive Contamination of the Techa River. Chelyabinsk: Fregat.

Health Physics: The Radiation Safety Journal 93(3), September 2007. The entire issue is devoted to radiological conditions at the Mayak site.

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