Memorial Day in Muslyumovo

29th of September 1957 a tank with radioactive waste at the Mayak plant in Russia exploded. On the day 52 years after the accident representatives of the Decomatom-project participated in a memorial in the village of Muslyumovo.

Mayak is a nuclear plant in the South Urals in Russia. The accident at the plant is regarded as one of the worst in the history after Chernobyl. Radioactive substances from the tank that exploded was scattered with the wind up to 300 km from the plant. Today, the plant is still in operation, and radioactive waste from the plant continues to contaminate the environment. During its operation hundreds of thousands have been affected by the Mayak plant.

Near Mayak the village of Musluymovo is located. Here, residents are fighting a desperate battle against the government for compensation for the problems caused by the Mayak plant. In the village only a few residents do not suffer from diseases due to radioactivity. In addition to the accidents at Mayak radioactive waste was for several years systematically dumped in the Techa river, which flows through the village.

Muslyuomovo’s history shows how important information has been kept secret for those who really needed it. For over 50 years, people have lived in an area that is considered the world's most radioactive - without getting the proper information.

New village - old problems

Gulfira Salikhyanova in front of her "new" house.
Gulfira Salikhyanova in front of her "new" house.
While several villages along the Techa river was evacuated after the Mayak accident, the authorities only recently begun the process of moving the residents of Muslyumovo. But that does not make the problem disappear. The new area, just 2 km away, is at least as vulnerable, and there is still risk of new accidents at Mayak.

Gulfira Salikhyanova was born in Muslyumovo in 1946, in the same period as the Mayak plant was built. Gulfira has lived in Muslyomovo her whole life. In December last year she moved into a new house in the "new" Muslyumovo. She could choose to either receive 1 million rubles (approx. 200 000 NOK) or move to a house of equal value.

Gulfira is happy to invite us into her house, but not because she is proud of her new home. She wants to showcase all the errors and deficiencies in the house. And the list is long. The toilet and electricity system is not working properly. Tiles are not fastened and the house is cold in the winter. Gulfira thinks the house only could have cost 350 000 rubles to build. She is frustrated and feels they have been duped.

Conference on decommissioning

Norges Naturvernforbund is working together with Russian environmental organizations for the decommissioning of the oldest nuclear reactors in Russia. Last week the project Decomatom organized a conference in Chelyabinsk, a city approx. 70 km from Mayak. One of the topics at the conference was the problems in the Chelyabinsk region caused by the transportation of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste from the Kola nuclear power plant to Mayak.

The visit to Muslyumovo was a part of the conference. 52 years after the accident there was a memorial at the river Techa.

- Techa is a horror example of the consequences of nuclear power, Audun Randen Johnson, responsible for the Decomatom project in Norges Naturvernforbund, said.

Audun took part in the visit of Muslyumovo along with Russian representatives from the Decomatom project, among others, Andrey Talevlin from the organization Za prirodu in Chelyabinsk. - The treatment of the inhabitants of Muslyumovo is a scandal, he said. - Moving people does not solve the real problem. The area is still an ecological catastrophe.

Andrey, who is a lawyer, has been responsible for the conference in Chelyabinsk. The conference has gathered environmentalists from all over Russia, Kazakhstan and Norway. - Instead of prolonging the lifetime of the old reactors, the Russian authorities must begin the process of decommissioning. The challenge of decommissioning can not be left to future generations, Andrey says.

For more information about the project: www.decomatom.org