Sakha seeks to overcome nuclear legacy

28 February 1999

The government of the Russian Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya) in Siberia, has signed a tripartite agreement with the federal Ministry of Atomic Energy and the diamond extracting company ALROSA, defining ways to restore the natural environment on lands formerly used for peaceful nuclear explosions. Between 1974 and 1987, Soviet authorities exploded 12 nuclear devices in Sakha. Six of the explosions were conducted to intensify the flow of oil and gas in the Sredne-Bouobinsk field; one to create an underground oil storage facility; one to help build a dam (dubbed project Kristall); and four explosions to deeply probe the Earth’s crust (project Kraton-3). Consequently, nine earthquakes shook the surrounding areas, and two of the explosions were admitted to be catastrophic when they were not properly contained.

According to Deputy Minister of Atomic Energy Viktor Mikhailov, the Kristal explosion, which took place only 2.5 kilometres from the city of Udachnyi, was intended as one in a series of seven, but the problems precluded further explosions. Today the challenge is to fill the cavity in the ground, a project that should not be very expensive.

Ameliorating the situation in the village of Aikhal, 50 kilometres away from the Kraton explosion, will require a greater investment of resources. Having signed the agreement, the sides promised to finance a 1996-2000 programme securing the ecological rehabilitation of the devastated areas. Authorities will continue to monitor public health in the areas of the explosions



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