Explosion at the Mayak – the hidden nuclear disaster.
All know about Chernobyl. Thirty years the world speak about this accident. But who hear about the explosion at the Mayak (also known as “Kyshtym disaster”)? Such a terrible accident as Chernobyl?
The factory with beautiful called “Mayak” (in the Russian language it means “lighthouse”) was built at the Chelyabinsk Region, Russia in 1948. The plant has trooped for weapons-grade plutonium production. Mayak was one of the secret factories, which were founded by USSR in large numbers. The factory was not even on the map, as well as settlements which sprang up around factory. The nearest recognized city was Kyshtym.
September 29, 1957, about 4:30 p.m. there was an explosion of the radioactive waste stored. The reason for the explosions is the failures in the cooling system. But the true cause was the negligence as the Chernobyl. For a long time, all data about the accident was classified. That we know about Kyshtym disaster.
The IAEA gave the Kyshtym disaster the rating availability of 6 out of 7 by the INES. 7 being the Major accident, as Chernobyl disaster or Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster) (LINK 1).
So, the explosion at the Mayak become the third-largest nuclear disaster in the worlds. The area of radioactive contamination is 23 000 square kilometers. In comparison, the territory of Denmark about 42 895 sq. km, Netherlands area is 41 526. A radioactive cloud from Kyshtym disaster covered about 400 thousand people living in 217 settlements (LINK 2).
The exact nature of the explosion is not known. The official version is that was blasted a mix of salt nitrates and sodium acetate.
But, not all scientists agree with it. The exploded tank contained about 80 tons of liquid saline solutions. It is 8 tons of explosive weight.
In the materials of the investigation record, that weight of the concrete tank lid was 160 tons. But, diameter the lid was 12 m. thickness 1m. It means, that volume of the cylinder about 144 cubic metres.
The density of concrete in this lid is 7 tons per cubic metres. So approximately weight of the concrete lid was 1008 tons.
80 tons of liquid saline solutions didn't enough for the breaking so heavy cover. But it had done enough to trigger a chain nuclear reaction. That why some physics sure, that it was a nuclear explosion (LINK 3).
Authorities attempted to cover up from society the accident. So, they tried to involve in the investigation as few people as possible. The primary purpose of the effort investigators was hiding the information about the explosion.
That why the Commission of elimination of the consequences of the explosion was administered by Semenov. He was Deputy Chief Engineer of Mayak. It could as well police assigned a suspected to protect a crime scene. As a result, no one was never held accountable. Director was transferred to another plant. Deputy Chief Engineer was fired (LINK 4). No trial, no compensation for victims.
The dust and radionuclides were projected into the air. Into the sky appears red and pink light. Soviet mass media called it North Light and assured that it is a natural phenomenon (LINK 5). The explosion didn't surprise local citizens. In this time was under construction a new factory floor and was performed blasting. All thought that blast - it is part of those work. The government did not tell residents about the nuclear threat.
The Soviet authorities had used children, for the nuclear plant disaster clean-up operations. At USSR was the common practice to used schoolchildren and students as a free labour force to harvesting. After explosion teenagers were sent on radioactively contaminated agricultural fields without protective equipment. Also schoolchildren fount this very strange that was demanded to bury harvest rather than bring in. However, the atmosphere of fear did not allow them to discuss questions.
As one woman later recalled, she was 9 years, when her class was sent to fields. Later most pupils died for cancer. (LINK 6)
Nothing didn’t care about local people safety. Evacuation has begun after 7-14 days. Some residents were evacuated a few months later. The Regional Government didn't explain any reasons why people must leave their homes. Among residents, there were rumours that near villages were found oil. In those times, soviet people didn't discuss and check their governor's orders. Questioning could give rise to the prison sentence or shooting. The most terrible, that some people do not even was evacuated.
Residents of the Muslyumovo, Brodokalmak, Russkaya Techa, Tatarskaya Karabolka stayed in the contaminated area. They lead normal lives and did not care about nuclear because did not know about dangerous. (LINK 7) It is difficult to understand why soviet authorities did not relocate these people. Maybe it was negligence, but perhaps it was some terrible experiment with humans. By the way, all Muslimovo's inhabitants at 1950 were tested compulsory medical examination. The results of which were classified. (LINK 8)People learned about nuclear danger after twenty years. By that time many people died. Cause of death most of them is unknown. Doctors were not allowed to write down radiation disease as a diagnosis in medical documents. So, they usually wrote cancer or vegetative-vascular dystonia. (LINK 9)
Radioactive dust into the environment is not what can easily be concealed. In 1957-1958 Intelligence services The USA and Europian countries know, that in Ural something wrong. But they hadn't correct data. Some analysts assumed that it was a failure in a military exercise. Other scientists thought that it was an unsuccessful scientific experiment. Authorities remained officially silent about the explosion at the Mayak.
In 1977 the Soviet dissident Zhores Medvedev mentioned about Kyshtym disaster. But facts were so shockingly, that also opponents of the USSR couldn't believe it. Sir John Hill, chairman of the British Atomic Energy Administration called Medvedev's report science fiction because nuclear waste couldn't explode (RBMK reactor don't explode, comrade Dyatlov?). (LINK 10)
The Soviet government denied any accident at Kyshtym and said, that Mr Medvedev lies. The explosion at the Mayak was recognised in 1989, at a session of the Supreme Council of the USSR. (LINK 11) It was three years after the Chernobyl.