Before the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, there was Mayak — Soviet Union’s worst nuclear accident until the 1986 disaster in Ukraine. The Mayak nuclear complex has been the source of the serious contamination of a huge territory in the Ural area in the 1950s exposing about half a million people to radiation, some of them to more than 20 times the radiation suffered by the Chernobyl disaster victims. The source of the information is Reuters.

An abandoned glue factory is reflected in Techa river in the village of Muslyumovo in Russia’s Ural mountains.

The village is located in one of the country’s most lethal nuclear dumping grounds. The Mayak nuclear complex located 30 kms from Muslyumovo, currently processing foreign radioactive wastes, dumped 76 million cubic metres of highly radioactive waste into the Techa river from 1949 to 1956.

A woman walks as the sun sets in the village of Muslyumovo.

Mayak is one of the biggest nuclear facilities in the Russian Federation and is also notorious as the source of the serious contamination of a huge territory in the Ural area in 1957, kept secret by the Soviet regime for over 30 years.

A man walks next to his old house in the village of Muslyumovo.

The lack of environmental responsibility in the past and the poor working conditions have led to additional contamination of the surrounding lake district and severe health hazards and accidents.

A new cemetery is seen in the village of Muslyumovo.

Many areas are still under restricted access because of radiation. Over the past 45 years, about half a million people in the region have been affected by radiation exposing some of them to more than 20 times the radiation suffered by the Chernobyl disaster victims.

A sign forbidding the gathering of mushrooms, picking berries and fishing is seen in front of an abandoned school in the village of Muslyumovo near the Mayak nuclear complex.

The plant’s original mission was to make, refine, and machine plutonium for weapons. In the early years of its operation, the Mayak plant released quantities of radioactively contaminated water into several small lakes near the plant, and into the Techa river, whose waters ultimately flow into the Ob River.

A local resident suffering from childhood disability including epilepsy and cerebral palsy sits in his house in the village of Muslyumovo near the Mayak nuclear complex.

The worst nuclear accident in the area occurred on 29 September 1957 resulting in a non-nuclear explosion having a force estimated at about 75 tons of TNT, which released some 2 million curies of radioactivity over 15,000 sq. miles. Subsequently, at least 200 people died of radiation sickness, 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes, and 470,000 people were exposed to radiation.

A man disassembles his old house to move it under a relocation programme to the new place in the village of Muslyumovo.

Half a century later, Mayak is still one of the most radioactive places on earth, and the accident continues to have a devastating legacy.

A woman is reflected in a puddle in the Novomuslyumovo village, built under a relocation program 1.6 km away from the old village of Muslyumovo.

Even today residents of the Ural Mountains village of Muslyumovo, reportedly, are drinking radioactive water.

A view of the village of Novomuslyumovo, built under a relocation program 1.6 km away from the old village of Muslyumovo.

Muslyumovo is the only settlement left along the banks of the contaminated Techa river. Several other settlements were evacuated following radioactive discharges from the upstream nuclear reprocessing plant in the 1950s.

Greenpeace measuring water from Techa river outside the village of Muslyumovo.

That alpha-particles were found in Muslyumovo water worries environmentalists since alpha-radiation is not something that could be a natural occurrence. Its presence indicates that the water contains plutonium, the stuff weapons are made of. The most poisonous artificially produced material has ended up in the water table.

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