Some 300 radiation warning signs are to be installed along the Techa River, which is adjacent to the radiochemical plant at Russia’s Mayak production association in Ozersk, Chelyabinsk region, Mayak reported. Mayak produces nuclear weapons components and isotopes, and stores and reprocesses used nuclear fuel.

When the site was established in the years after World War III and during the early years of the nuclear arms race, secrecy was paramount and safety was not a consideration – a factor common to all the nuclear weapons states at that time. There were no adequate technologies for recycling of radioactive waste, which was dumped directly into the Techa River. For three years (1949-1951) some 3m curies of radionuclides were dumped in this way. In 1951, the discharge was stopped, and the waste was collected in a cascade of reservoirs.

The Techa River remains contaminated, long after Mayak stopped dumping waste but the radiation is relatively low. The only inhabited village down the river is called Brodokalmak and is about 85km downstream from Ozersk, and 50km away from a bridge crossing the river. Halfway between the bridge and Brodokalmak is the abandoned village of Muslyumovo, which was inhabited until about a decade ago, when state nuclear corporation Rosatom offered to relocate its 2,500 residents.

According to the results of an auction, the application and price offer of Mayak for this work are recognised as priority. Work on the installation of signs will be carried out in four municipalities of the Chelyabinsk region – in Argayash, Sosnovsky, Krasnoarmeysky and Kunashak regions. Contracts are being signed with each municipality to carry out the work. Under the terms of the contracts, 27 warning signs will be installed in the Argayash region, 66 in Sosnovsky, 153 in the Krasnoarmeysky, and 54 in Kunashak.

The priority locations for the installation are the entrances and approaches to the Techa River from nearby settlements, as well as roads and railways crossing the river. The signs will be located at a distance from each other – from the Techen cascade of water bodies to the border with the Kurgan region. Until November 1, 2020, as determined by the terms of the contracts, 300 signs will be installed containing a warning about the radiation hazard and information on the main restrictions established on the Techa River.

“All the work on the installation of warning signs is carried out in accordance with the measures included in the special environmental programme “Rehabilitation of radiation-contaminated areas of the Chelyabinsk Region for 2010–2020”, said Pavel Andronnikov, Head of Planning and Environmental Monitoring at Mayak PA .

All signs will be 500 x 1000 mm with the use of retroreflective materials similar to road signs. Contract preparatory work has already begun. Surveyors of the industrial safety service, together with employees of the Mayak ecology service, are performing geodetic linkage of places for installing signs in accordance with the coordinates determined by the technical specifications. This work is necessary to accurately determine installation sites, as well as to provide technical feasibility of work.