Shabbily stored tons of radioactive waste threaten Siberian mining town

zabgok radiation sign.jpg A radiation sign near one of ZabGOK's dilapidated radioactive waste storage facilities. (Photo: Ksenia Simina/Chita.ru)

Russia is storing more than 16 tons of radioactive waste in Siberia’s Zabaikalsky Region in the Far East, causing a local town to go on heightened alert thanks to mounting open-air radiological hazards, Russian media reported.

Radioactive waste produced by the Transbaikal Mining and Enrichment Combine – or ZabGOK in its Russian acronym – is concentrated near the town of Pervomaisk and its population of 11,000 in violation of storage safety codes, the official Tass newswire reported.

container zabGOK A substandard container for radioactive waste near ZabGOK. (Photo: Tjournal.ru)

According to the local prosecutor’s office, the areas where radioactive waste is being stored haven’t even been appropriately fenced off from the public.

The town in August raised its alert level for possible contamination from tin dioxides due to substandard storage of radioactive and other highly toxic substances, the regional prosecutor’s press office told the Chita.ru news portal (in Russian).

“In the course of refining activities at ZabGOK, a mineral ore for producing tantalic-columbic concentrations formed tin dioxide cake, which is radioactive waste with elevated levels of radionuclides,” said the prosecutor’s office.

Some 16 tons of the tin dioxide cake is shabbily houses in and around Pervomaisk in storage containers that are woefully and illegally substandard.

The prosecutors office added that the waste, which is stored in special transportable packing containers are kicking out radiation levels exceeding 1,800 to 2,900 microroentgen per hour, and that levels inside the containers reach 5,000 microroentgen per hour – thousands of times more than allowable levels.

The prosecutor added that over the next year the fragile containers could begin to disintegrate, causing radioactive leaks.

zabgok interior An inside shot of the Transbaikal Mining and Chemical Combine. (Photo: ZabGOK)

“Because conditions of safe storage are not being observed, there is the threat of an uncontrollable release of radioactive substances that would affect at least two regions and lead to their introduction into the environment,” the prosecutor’s office said, adding, “consequently, there is a threat of an emergency with unpredictable consequences for the population and the environment.”

The prosecutor’s office has called for federal intervention in hopes of preventing this.

The Pervomaisky Regional Ministry of Natural Resources has meanwhile been tasked with overseeing the implementation of appropriate monitoring for storage and disposal of the radioactive waste at ZabGOK.

The regional administration was likewise compelled to organize a public information campaign for the region’s residents, informing them about where radioactive waste and toxic industrial rubbish is located.

The administration is likewise establishing these locales as forbidden to the pubic, and is in the process of fencing them off

The Transbaikal Mining and Chemical Combine is a mining facility that recovers lithium, tantalian, and beryllium. It’s located 230 kilometers east of the Siberian city of Chita.

 

 

Charles Digges