The findings of a joint Russian-Norwegian study into radioactive contamination from the Mayak Chemical Combine reprocessing plant in the southern Urals have allayed fears that radioactive waste could have travelled down the River Ob and into the Kara Sea. The plant produced weapons-grade plutonium from 1948 to 1990 and wastes were dumped untreated into the Techa river in the early 1950s. The plant now mainly reprocesses spent nuclear fuel.
The inquiry, whose findings have been published in Oslo, reported that “radioactive waste that was dumped into the Techa River, in the Techa-Tobol-Ob river system, did not reach the estuary of the Ob or the Kara Sea and has not affected the environment of the northern seas”. The report is the result of three years of joint work by Russian and Norwegian experts following a 1993 agreement between the relevant government departments. It is the first time a detailed summary of information about past and present radioactive contamination of areas affected by the Mayak plant has been compiled.
Norway’s concerns centre on whether there was any threat to the population in the north of the country or to fish stocks in the Barents Sea adjoining the Kara Sea. More than 400 water and rock samples were taken, and vegetation and fish were also studied. The samples were analysed in both Russia and Norway.