All of a sudden, everybody has started talking about "local Chernobyls". And Russia abounds in places of this kind. Soon the Kirov region may become one of them. The situation with radioactive waste (RW) there is actually stalemate.
RW was accumulated over forty years of operations during the Soviet era by the Kirovo-Chepetsk chemical combine that was an integral element of nuclear armaments manufacturing.According to rough estimates, the plant may have buried about 437,000 tons of radioactive and over 1.2 million tons of toxic waste, including over 400 tons of mercury-containing waste. All this has been dumped into trenches reinforced with clay, near the river Elkhovka and lake Prosnoe. In groundwater, radiation has already found. The spot is moving in the direction of the Vyatka river. The RW storage facility itself is located within the city of Kirovo-Chepetsk. Stored at the site now is Uranium-138 and Strontium-90, which, incidentally, has been detected in groundwater. All radioactive burial grounds in the late 90's were removed by a court ruling from the property of the Kirovo-Chepetsk Chemical Combine and transferred to federal ownership. Freed from harmful assets, the plant was very successfully acquired by "URALCHEM" of Dmitry Mazepin in 2004 after multimillion-dollar lawsuits, scandals over mortgages and the looming bankruptcy. Radioactive storage facilities were transferred in 2011 to federal enterprise RosRAO, which took over the operation of the facilities after obtaining licenses for "handling radioactive waste during processing" and " decommissioning of radiation sources." The federal program provides funding of up to 2.2 billion rubles by 2020. The intrigue is that the original term of operation of the Soviet storage facilities expired in 2012. “Nobody understands what happened down there over these decades,” the activist Sergei Aldobaev said to Vek. “Waste was placed in containers and surrounded by clay reinforcements. But we examined the place and saw that the clay retainers of the structures were eroded, which means that the toxic substances are already coming out. And, of course, the containers are also outdated.”RosRAO started work on the burial ground without a project and without the mandatory conclusions of the state environmental expert commission. The approach is typical for the Russian state nuclear power corporation Rosatom. And RosRAO could not obtain the conclusions because the assessment of impact on environment had been done by public activists from the Green Patrol NGO, not by official experts. These "documents" could not pass the state expert review, and RosRAO got a refusal but did not alter anything, since the deadlines of receiving federal money were tight. Rosatom pushed through the right solution shutting up overly talkative people in time. Now public activists say that RosRAO classified the works though it is obliged to publish these data. RosRAO management did not come up with any figures at numerous public hearings, only assuring that "everything is in order” at the waste repositories. Residents and environmentalists are asked to take the word of those who have already deceived the law with state expertise. Activists who managed to visit the objects say that the workers simply pull down everything that protrudes above the surface, and then fill it with earth. It is important to remember that in the Soviet years all this radioactive dirt was not just poured into pits, but laid down with partitions, waterproofing layers, concrete or wooden structures. Now RosRAO is destroying what has survived into our days. Another question, to which local eco-activists have not received an answer, is what happened to 178 containers of commercial uranium tetrafluoride. They were kept in the warehouse of shop No.100 according to the results of 2000 stocktaking, and a part of them was said to have sustained damaged. According to official data part of the storage facilities of Kirovo-Chepetsk chemical combine is in a critical condition, with recorded leaks and releases of hazardous substances into the environment. “This is a huge problem for the region,” eco - activist Andrei Ozarovsky told Vek. “Waste repositories are large, both in terms of area and quantities of dangerous substances. If you divide the total amount by the number of residents of the regional center, then everyone will get a whole dump truck of poisonous rubbish. When the water level in the Vyatka river rises, these repositories can be flooded. Poisoned water flows into the water intake of the city of Kirov and then a disaster cannot be avoided.”The problem is that in Russia there are no technologies to work with such burial grounds, environmentalists say. And there are about 700 of them in the country. All of them time bombs. And now let us recall it was Rosatom that became the federal operator for handling hazardous waste. The federal law has adopted by the State Duma, approved by senators and already signed by the President. Do you think the story of RosRAO and Kirovo-Chepetsko radiation is an exception to the rules, or the norm of the new all-Russian operator?