Chelyabinsk – The most contaminated place on the planet

Chelyabinsk – The most contaminated place on the planet

Chernobyl, Fukushima… Do these places ring a bell? What about Chelyabinsk? Have you ever heard of the place? Elena has, it’s where she was born and where here family still live. In resent years Chelyabinsk has had it’s share of news. In February 2013 the world witnessed a huge meteor slam into the earths atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, causing widespread damage to many windows in the city. The shockwaves form the sonic boom took our the windows in Mum and Dads apartment.

A small asteroid broke up over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013. The shock wave it generated shattered glass and injured about 1,200 people. Some scientists think the meteor may have briefly outshone the sun. The blast was stronger than a nuclear explosion, triggering detections from monitoring stations as far away as Antarctica. The incident was another reminder to space agencies about the importance of monitoring small bodies in space that could pose a threat to Earth.

But Chelyabinsk holds secrets of a more sinister nature, one of political cover ups, spy plane missions and nuclear catastrophes that still have repercussions on the inhabitants today. There are numerous cases of illness and radio active related deformities that defile the people of Chelyabinsk, a city that was closed to the outside world before the collapse of the soviet union.

Is this the most polluted place on Earth? The Russian lake where an hour on the beach would kill you Lake Karachay was a dumping ground for one of the Soviet Union’s biggest nuclear weapons facilities A string of accidents and disasters has left the surrounding regime completely contaminated with radioactive waste

Visiting Chelyabinsk for the first time in 1997 I was totally oblivious to the atrocities that had happened here, after all I was going their to meet Elena’s family having established a relationship with Elena via 9 months of letter writing form New Zealand. Chelyabinsk for me was an exciting adventure, somewhere behind the Iron curtain where our parents said wee’d never see. Now the world is getting to see Russia, and not all of it is pretty girls wanting a better life.

Russia has had it’s fair share of Nuclear accidents, but not all have been placed on show for the world to react to. In the last 90’s there was the Kursk Submarine explosion killing all 118 mariners aboard. Looking back a few years earlier, Chernobyl claimed fame as the worlds worst nuclear disaster, but who knows much about the city of Chelyabinsk 45 and the disaster that sparked the U2 spy plane missions of the 50’s and 60’s.

No one knows much about the disaster of September 1957.

The Kyshtym disaster at Mayak Lake (a plutonium production site for nuclear weapons and a fuel reprocessing plant). It measured Level 6 on the INES scale (International Nuclear Event Scale), making it the 3rd most serious nuclear accident behind Fukushima and Chernobyl.

The Mayak plant, and spread hot particles over more than 20,000 square miles (52,000 km2), where at least 270,000 people lived. The reason no one knew, was the city didn’t show on any maps (as with many soviet military cities). As the city of Ozyorsk/Mayak (also named Chelyabinsk 40, then Chelyabinsk 65 until 1994) was not marked on any maps, the disaster was named after Kyshtym, the nearest known town.

It’s a worrying thought as Elena’s family still live in the area, sickness is common and with a recent event involving Elena’s Thyroid the doctor asked “have you been exposed to high levels of radio activity”….

The reaches of contamination still haunt us today.

Chelyabinsk, despite its mysterious past still holds an attraction, the Ural mountains are adorned with rivers and lakes (yup one’s that are not contaminated) and we’ll still travel here. In 2012  we rafted the Ay river for 3 days. There’s a sense that all is forgotten, but Russia has a log history of making “making things disappear”. If Russia can purge its people through wars and political ideals, then hiding a nuclear accident is child’s play.

…Some people climb mountains, some climd volcano’s, as for us we go to Chelyabinsk…

 

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