Emergency Shutdown of Ukraine’s Largest Nuke Plant, Right In Eastern War Zone

ZAPORIZIHA POWER PLANT

ZAP

[SEE: Moscow says Ukraine’s switch to US nuclear fuel threatens European safety;“Emergency shutdown” at one of world’s largest nuke plants ;Ukraine’s Nukenado < Updated]

Ukraine Energy Wars Are Leading To A Fukushima-Chernobyl Debacle In Europe

rense

By Yoichi Shimatsu
Exclusvie to Rense
1-5-15

Clashes over energy in Ukraine between the West and Russia could prompt another Chernobyl-type accident or a catastrophe on the order of a Fukushima that will complete the nuclear devastation of the Northern Hemisphere. As news media fixate on conflicts over pipelines that supply Europe with Russian gas, another energy war is erupting over control of Ukraine’s nuclear-power industry, which generates half that nation’s electricity.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenuk’s campaign for “energy independence” from Russian-sourced natural gas and nuclear fuel is not a study in cost control, economic security or even national sovereignty. His corporate-giveaway policies are actually a concession to Western energy interests in return for their influence over the EU, which can provide loans to avert an imminent default on Kiev’s debt to the IMF and World Bank. With an annual budget shortfall of $15 billion and a currency collapse, Ukraine is staggering under external sovereign debt estimated at between $140 and $200 billion.

The IMF and World Bank have halted further transfers of loan tranches to Kiev, which is now unable to make payments on its gas imports from Russia. Kiev policymakers are therefore desperately looking to expand their nuclear industry. Unfortunately two recent accidents at its largest nuclear-power plant highlight the serious risks to a nation still grappling with the long-term effects of the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.

Boom and Bust

In stark contrast with eco-conscious capitals across Europe, Kiev is unable to resist foreign demands to adopt the Texan model of boom-and-bust energy extraction. Chevron and Shell have launched fracking projects to tap shale-oil deposits across Ukraine, but exploration and revenues have been delayed by the fierce fighting in the Donetsk region.

Ukraine also possesses one of Europe’s few exploitable uranium reserves in its Kirovograd and Dnipropetrovsk regions, now being targeted by the French nuclear giant AREVA in cooperation with local partner VostGOK.

An ongoing series of nuclear-fuel deals between Toshiba-Westinghouse and Ukraine energy monopoly Energoatom is aimed at severing Kiev’s reliance on Russian technology and Kazakh uranium. The competition to supply the global market for MOX (mixed oxides of uranium and plutonium) is pitting a consortium of Westinghouse, AREVA and their US suppliers against their Moscow-based rival Rusatom and nuclear-engineering firm TVE.

Beset by losses of orders from Japan, the AREVA MOX fabrication plant in France is facing a new and strong challenge from the Rusatom pellet facility in Krasnoyarsk, western Siberia, which has replaced the aging Mayak fuel plant.

To reduce stockpiles of plutonium-laced spent fuel rods stored inside power plants, the global nuclear industry is pushing to introduce advanced prototypes of fast-breeder reactors, which burn a variety of nuclear fuels including plutonium. Rusatom is producing MOX pellets for a next-generation fast-breeder to start operation this year at Beloyarskaya. The Russian design is the chief rival for next-generation breeder reactors being developed by the French ASTRID program in the Rhone region and the Hitachi-GE Horizon project along Britain’s Irish Sea coast.

In this global race to revive the fortunes of the nuclear industry, Chernobyl and the ongoing Fukushima cataclysm spewing radioactive waste into the jet stream over Europe have all but been forgotten.

Salvaging Savannah River

The powerful explosion of MOX fuel rods at Reactor 3 in Fukushima nearly four years ago prompted Britain to close its Sellafield MOX fuel-rod production facility and convinced the Department of Energy to suspend construction on the US mixed-oxide project in Savannah River, South Carolina. These setbacks for the US-UK nuclear industry left the AREVA’s Mercoule facility in the southern French region of Languedoc-Roussillon as the only MOX producer in the West.

Ulterior motives lurk behind the Ukraine sales pitch. The year-end push by Toshiba-Westinghouse to supply nuclear fuel to Kiev is a backhanded tactic to overturn the DOE decision to halt construction on the Savannah River MOX fuel fabrication facility. Anti-Moscow rhetoric and geopolitical arguments for switching Ukraine to Western-based energy systems (fracking, tanker-delivered oil imports and MOX fuel) bolster the odds for congressional funding to complete the Savannah River MOX facility.

Started in 1999 to dispose of plutonium from warheads under nuclear-weapons reductions agreed between Washington and Moscow, the MOX plant has already cost taxpayers $4 billion while an added $3.8 billion in project overruns is the low estimate before the operations are scheduled to begin in 2019. Unfortunately for Toshiba-Westinghouse, the main arguments against completing Savannah River are based on security questions.

Since the planning stage, nonproliferation experts have come to recognize the threat of plutonium being hijacked from DOE facilities, as happened in the 2008 covert operation by Israeli agents at the PANTEX warhead-dismantling plant in Amarillo, Texas. (This investigative journalist penned an in-depth article on the PANTEX heist and the murder of CIA contract inspector Roland Carnaby.)

The technological factor behind abandoning MOX for nonproliferation purposes was the introduction of laser-extraction systems that enable nuclear engineers to efficiently remove pure plutonium from spent MOX fuel rods. Nations with nuclear-weapons ambitions just have to place an order for MOX fuel to obtain high-grade plutonium.

A Bridge Too Far

To anyone with a rational mind, shipping nuclear fuel to the land of Chernobyl might seem not only criminal and unethical but also an act of sheer madness. Yet, under a 2008 contract, Westinghouse (which is majority-owned by Toshiba), has already started supplying uranium fuel assemblies to three reactors at the South Ukraine nuclear plant.

What’s profitable for the nuclear industry in the US and Japan is toxic for the EU, particularly its more environmental and anti-nuclear member-nations including Germany and Austria, which will have no choice but to accept this legal precedent for continent-wide fracking and a revival of nuclear power.

Ukraine serves as the bridgehead for US-Japanese takeover of the European energy industry, but it is a “bridge too far” because the strong possibility of a Fukushima-type MOX fuel explosion at its aging nuclear plants would exterminate all of Europe.

The European public should find little reassurance in that fact that Toshiba built the Fukushima Reactor 3, which blew apart in a mushroom cloud sending microparticles of plutonium as far as Scandinavia and the French Alps. Now the very same company responsible for Fukushima radiation spreading to Europe is toying around in the EU’s backyard.

Chernobyl Redux

A coalition of AREVA and Toshiba-Westinghouse have been lobbying the Parliament in Kiev to approve construction of a western-designed nuclear-power plant in Ukraine’s Black Sea region. According to an Energy Ministry press releases in June, “a new concept for the development of nuclear power is expected to be adopted and will include the technical and financial aspects of the construction of new power units, as well as advancing plans for a fuel fabrication plant and a waste repository.”

No doubt Ukrainian nationalists might rejoice at the sudden prospects of Kiev regaining its nuclear-weapons production capability, which was surrendered to Washington’s nonproliferation soon after its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. That proud national aspiration, in the cold light of geopolitics, will remain only a dream. Any nuclear deterrence will be provided by NATO missile launch pads and bomber airfields, transforming Ukraine into a battlefield and radioactive graveyard. Instead of gaining real independence, Ukraine has sadly reverted to its traditional place as a brutal buffer zone.

The truth is bitter, indeed. Ukraine is getting a raw deal. The proposed high-level waste repository is the predictable price for steep discounts on nuclear technology shipped in modules onto the docks at Odessa along with casks of spent fuel. Japan is in dire need of a foreign nuclear-waste dump, especially for its damaged Fukushima fuel rods, following rebuffs from Russia, China and Mongolia. The US, also straddled with decades of spent-fuel rods, needs an alternative to the canceled Yucca Mountain repository site. Thus, under this unsavory “international partnership”, Toshiba-Westinghouse and AREVA make the profits while Ukraine gets stuck with piles of nuclear waste.

Retrofit Risks

At this point in time, the easiest way to dump nuclear waste is to provide unsuspecting nations with MOX fuel rods, which actually a repository for surplus plutonium. The Energy Ministry’s “new concept of nuclear power” and a proposed “fuel fabrication plant” are code words for the planned conversion of the Russian-built VVER pressurized water reactors for MOX fuel rods. Retrofitting has sizable risks, as shown at Fukushima.

Westinghouse has recently negotiated a deal with to provide an undisclosed type of nuclear fuel for two additional reactors to be built at Energoatom’s Khmelnitsky plant in northwest Ukraine. The deal eliminates fuel rods from Russian nuclear-engineering company TVE, the main contractor for plant construction which operates its own mine and fuel plant in Kazakhstan.

Since then Energoatom director Natalia Shumkova stated the company might start shipping its nuclear waste to the AREVA recycling facility in La Hague, France. AREVA states that its facility separates uranium (95%) and plutonium(1%) as ingredients in new fuels. MOX, in short, is garbage fuel.

Accidents Happen

The 15 reactors in Ukraine’s four nuclear plants have Russian-designed VVER (pressurized water) reactors of the type that can be converted from enriched uranium to MOX fuel rods. The problem is that many of the Russian-built reactors have reached their 4-decade lifetime limit and are now in permanent disrepair, a fact underscored by shutdowns at the giant Zaporozhye nuclear-power plant’s Reactor 3 in late November and at its Reactor 6 a month later.

Energoatom reported the causes of both accidents as minor electrical problems and denied late November reports from a Baltic monitoring station of wide-ranging atmospheric radiation releases. Also ignored were reports from the nearby Donetsk area, where surges in radiation levels were detected at the end of December. The Ukraine nuclear industry must have adopted the TEPCO standards for public disinformation. Or perhaps lying about the dangers of radiation is a homegrown legacy of Chernobyl.

One last point needs to be considered as a spur toward civil peace in unfortunate Ukraine: Zaporozhye with its six reactors is the largest nuclear plant in Europe and lies within easy artillery and rocket range of the battle lines in eastern Ukraine. Collateral damage or a plane crash onto Plant Z would make Chernobyl seem like a picnic in the countryside.

Yoichi Shimatsu is a Hong Kong-based science journalist and environmental consultant who has conducted radiation studies inside the Fukushima exclusion zone and the Hanford and San Onofre nuclear plants.

On December 3 1984, Union Carbide Gas Sent 3,800 Souls Home To God

BHOPAL SOURCE

The Bhopal disaster and its aftermath: a review

NCBI

On December 3 1984, more than 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, immediately killing at least 3,800 people and causing significant morbidity and premature death for many thousands more. The company involved in what became the worst industrial accident in history immediately tried to dissociate itself from legal responsibility. Eventually it reached a settlement with the Indian Government through mediation of that country’s Supreme Court and accepted moral responsibility. It paid $470 million in compensation, a relatively small amount of based on significant underestimations of the long-term health consequences of exposure and the number of people exposed. The disaster indicated a need for enforceable international standards for environmental safety, preventative strategies to avoid similar accidents and industrial disaster preparedness.

Since the disaster, India has experienced rapid industrialization. While some positive changes in government policy and behavior of a few industries have taken place, major threats to the environment from rapid and poorly regulated industrial growth remain. Widespread environmental degradation with significant adverse human health consequences continues to occur throughout India.

December 2004 marked the twentieth anniversary of the massive toxic gas leak from Union Carbide Corporation’s chemical plant in Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India that killed more than 3,800 people. This review examines the health effects of exposure to the disaster, the legal response, the lessons learned and whether or not these are put into practice in India in terms of industrial development, environmental management and public health.

History

In the 1970s, the Indian government initiated policies to encourage foreign companies to invest in local industry. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) was asked to build a plant for the manufacture of Sevin, a pesticide commonly used throughout Asia. As part of the deal, India’s government insisted that a significant percentage of the investment come from local shareholders. The government itself had a 22% stake in the company’s subsidiary, Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) [1]. The company built the plant in Bhopal because of its central location and access to transport infrastructure. The specific site within the city was zoned for light industrial and commercial use, not for hazardous industry. The plant was initially approved only for formulation of pesticides from component chemicals, such as MIC imported from the parent company, in relatively small quantities. However, pressure from competition in the chemical industry led UCIL to implement “backward integration” – the manufacture of raw materials and intermediate products for formulation of the final product within one facility. This was inherently a more sophisticated and hazardous process [2].

In 1984, the plant was manufacturing Sevin at one quarter of its production capacity due to decreased demand for pesticides. Widespread crop failures and famine on the subcontinent in the 1980s led to increased indebtedness and decreased capital for farmers to invest in pesticides. Local managers were directed to close the plant and prepare it for sale in July 1984 due to decreased profitability [3]. When no ready buyer was found, UCIL made plans to dismantle key production units of the facility for shipment to another developing country. In the meantime, the facility continued to operate with safety equipment and procedures far below the standards found in its sister plant in Institute, West Virginia. The local government was aware of safety problems but was reticent to place heavy industrial safety and pollution control burdens on the struggling industry because it feared the economic effects of the loss of such a large employer [3].

At 11.00 PM on December 2 1984, while most of the one million residents of Bhopal slept, an operator at the plant noticed a small leak of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and increasing pressure inside a storage tank. The vent-gas scrubber, a safety device designer to neutralize toxic discharge from the MIC system, had been turned off three weeks prior [3]. Apparently a faulty valve had allowed one ton of water for cleaning internal pipes to mix with forty tons of MIC [1]. A 30 ton refrigeration unit that normally served as a safety component to cool the MIC storage tank had been drained of its coolant for use in another part of the plant [3]. Pressure and heat from the vigorous exothermic reaction in the tank continued to build. The gas flare safety system was out of action and had been for three months. At around 1.00 AM, December 3, loud rumbling reverberated around the plant as a safety valve gave way sending a plume of MIC gas into the early morning air [4]. Within hours, the streets of Bhopal were littered with human corpses and the carcasses of buffaloes, cows, dogs and birds. An estimated 3,800 people died immediately, mostly in the poor slum colony adjacent to the UCC plant [1,5]. Local hospitals were soon overwhelmed with the injured, a crisis further compounded by a lack of knowledge of exactly what gas was involved and what its effects were [1]. It became one of the worst chemical disasters in history and the name Bhopal became synonymous with industrial catastrophe [5].

Estimates of the number of people killed in the first few days by the plume from the UCC plant run as high as 10,000, with 15,000 to 20,000 premature deaths reportedly occurring in the subsequent two decades [6]. The Indian government reported that more than half a million people were exposed to the gas [7]. Several epidemiological studies conducted soon after the accident showed significant morbidity and increased mortality in the exposed population. Table Table1.1. summarizes early and late effects on health. These data are likely to under-represent the true extent of adverse health effects because many exposed individuals left Bhopal immediately following the disaster never to return and were therefore lost to follow-up [8].

Table 1

Health effects of the Bhopal methyl isocyanate gas leak exposure [8, 30-32].

Aftermath

Immediately after the disaster, UCC began attempts to dissociate itself from responsibility for the gas leak. Its principal tactic was to shift culpability to UCIL, stating the plant was wholly built and operated by the Indian subsidiary. It also fabricated scenarios involving sabotage by previously unknown Sikh extremist groups and disgruntled employees but this theory was impugned by numerous independent sources [1].

The toxic plume had barely cleared when, on December 7, the first multi-billion dollar lawsuit was filed by an American attorney in a U.S. court. This was the beginning of years of legal machinations in which the ethical implications of the tragedy and its affect on Bhopal’s people were largely ignored. In March 1985, the Indian government enacted the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act as a way of ensuring that claims arising from the accident would be dealt with speedily and equitably. The Act made the government the sole representative of the victims in legal proceedings both within and outside India. Eventually all cases were taken out of the U.S. legal system under the ruling of the presiding American judge and placed entirely under Indian jurisdiction much to the detriment of the injured parties.

In a settlement mediated by the Indian Supreme Court, UCC accepted moral responsibility and agreed to pay $470 million to the Indian government to be distributed to claimants as a full and final settlement. The figure was partly based on the disputed claim that only 3000 people died and 102,000 suffered permanent disabilities [9]. Upon announcing this settlement, shares of UCC rose $2 per share or 7% in value [1]. Had compensation in Bhopal been paid at the same rate that asbestosis victims where being awarded in US courts by defendant including UCC – which mined asbestos from 1963 to 1985 – the liability would have been greater than the $10 billion the company was worth and insured for in 1984 [10]. By the end of October 2003, according to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department, compensation had been awarded to 554,895 people for injuries received and 15,310 survivors of those killed. The average amount to families of the dead was $2,200 [9].

At every turn, UCC has attempted to manipulate, obfuscate and withhold scientific data to the detriment of victims. Even to this date, the company has not stated exactly what was in the toxic cloud that enveloped the city on that December night [8]. When MIC is exposed to 200° heat, it forms degraded MIC that contains the more deadly hydrogen cyanide (HCN). There was clear evidence that the storage tank temperature did reach this level in the disaster. The cherry-red color of blood and viscera of some victims were characteristic of acute cyanide poisoning [11]. Moreover, many responded well to administration of sodium thiosulfate, an effective therapy for cyanide poisoning but not MIC exposure [11]. UCC initially recommended use of sodium thiosulfate but withdrew the statement later prompting suggestions that it attempted to cover up evidence of HCN in the gas leak. The presence of HCN was vigorously denied by UCC and was a point of conjecture among researchers [8,1113].

As further insult, UCC discontinued operation at its Bhopal plant following the disaster but failed to clean up the industrial site completely. The plant continues to leak several toxic chemicals and heavy metals that have found their way into local aquifers. Dangerously contaminated water has now been added to the legacy left by the company for the people of Bhopal [1,14].

Lessons learned

The events in Bhopal revealed that expanding industrialization in developing countries without concurrent evolution in safety regulations could have catastrophic consequences [4]. The disaster demonstrated that seemingly local problems of industrial hazards and toxic contamination are often tied to global market dynamics. UCC’s Sevin production plant was built in Madhya Pradesh not to avoid environmental regulations in the U.S. but to exploit the large and growing Indian pesticide market. However the manner in which the project was executed suggests the existence of a double standard for multinational corporations operating in developing countries [1]. Enforceable uniform international operating regulations for hazardous industries would have provided a mechanism for significantly improved in safety in Bhopal. Even without enforcement, international standards could provide norms for measuring performance of individual companies engaged in hazardous activities such as the manufacture of pesticides and other toxic chemicals in India [15]. National governments and international agencies should focus on widely applicable techniques for corporate responsibility and accident prevention as much in the developing world context as in advanced industrial nations [16]. Specifically, prevention should include risk reduction in plant location and design and safety legislation [17].

Local governments clearly cannot allow industrial facilities to be situated within urban areas, regardless of the evolution of land use over time. Industry and government need to bring proper financial support to local communities so they can provide medical and other necessary services to reduce morbidity, mortality and material loss in the case of industrial accidents.

Public health infrastructure was very weak in Bhopal in 1984. Tap water was available for only a few hours a day and was of very poor quality. With no functioning sewage system, untreated human waste was dumped into two nearby lakes, one a source of drinking water. The city had four major hospitals but there was a shortage of physicians and hospital beds. There was also no mass casualty emergency response system in place in the city [3]. Existing public health infrastructure needs to be taken into account when hazardous industries choose sites for manufacturing plants. Future management of industrial development requires that appropriate resources be devoted to advance planning before any disaster occurs [18]. Communities that do not possess infrastructure and technical expertise to respond adequately to such industrial accidents should not be chosen as sites for hazardous industry.

Since 1984

Following the events of December 3 1984 environmental awareness and activism in India increased significantly. The Environment Protection Act was passed in 1986, creating the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and strengthening India’s commitment to the environment. Under the new act, the MoEF was given overall responsibility for administering and enforcing environmental laws and policies. It established the importance of integrating environmental strategies into all industrial development plans for the country. However, despite greater government commitment to protect public health, forests, and wildlife, policies geared to developing the country’s economy have taken precedence in the last 20 years [19].

India has undergone tremendous economic growth in the two decades since the Bhopal disaster. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has increased from $1,000 in 1984 to $2,900 in 2004 and it continues to grow at a rate of over 8% per year [20]. Rapid industrial development has contributed greatly to economic growth but there has been significant cost in environmental degradation and increased public health risks. Since abatement efforts consume a large portion of India’s GDP, MoEF faces an uphill battle as it tries to fulfill its mandate of reducing industrial pollution [19]. Heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants and poor enforcement of vehicle emission laws have result from economic concerns taking precedence over environmental protection [19].

With the industrial growth since 1984, there has been an increase in small scale industries (SSIs) that are clustered about major urban areas in India. There are generally less stringent rules for the treatment of waste produced by SSIs due to less waste generation within each individual industry. This has allowed SSIs to dispose of untreated wastewater into drainage systems that flow directly into rivers. New Delhi’s Yamuna River is illustrative. Dangerously high levels of heavy metals such as lead, cobalt, cadmium, chrome, nickel and zinc have been detected in this river which is a major supply of potable water to India’s capital thus posing a potential health risk to the people living there and areas downstream [21].

Land pollution due to uncontrolled disposal of industrial solid and hazardous waste is also a problem throughout India. With rapid industrialization, the generation of industrial solid and hazardous waste has increased appreciably and the environmental impact is significant [22].

India relaxed its controls on foreign investment in order to accede to WTO rules and thereby attract an increasing flow of capital. In the process, a number of environmental regulations are being rolled back as growing foreign investments continue to roll in. The Indian experience is comparable to that of a number of developing countries that are experiencing the environmental impacts of structural adjustment. Exploitation and export of natural resources has accelerated on the subcontinent. Prohibitions against locating industrial facilities in ecologically sensitive zones have been eliminated while conservation zones are being stripped of their status so that pesticide, cement and bauxite mines can be built [23]. Heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants and poor enforcement of vehicle emission laws are other consequences of economic concerns taking precedence over environmental protection [19].

In March 2001, residents of Kodaikanal in southern India caught the Anglo-Dutch company, Unilever, red-handed when they discovered a dumpsite with toxic mercury laced waste from a thermometer factory run by the company’s Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Lever. The 7.4 ton stockpile of mercury-laden glass was found in torn stacks spilling onto the ground in a scrap metal yard located near a school. In the fall of 2001, steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center was exported to India apparently without first being tested for contamination from asbestos and heavy metals present in the twin tower debris. Other examples of poor environmental stewardship and economic considerations taking precedence over public health concerns abound [24].

The Bhopal disaster could have changed the nature of the chemical industry and caused a reexamination of the necessity to produce such potentially harmful products in the first place. However the lessons of acute and chronic effects of exposure to pesticides and their precursors in Bhopal has not changed agricultural practice patterns. An estimated 3 million people per year suffer the consequences of pesticide poisoning with most exposure occurring in the agricultural developing world. It is reported to be the cause of at least 22,000 deaths in India each year. In the state of Kerala, significant mortality and morbidity have been reported following exposure to Endosulfan, a toxic pesticide whose use continued for 15 years after the events of Bhopal [25].

Aggressive marketing of asbestos continues in developing countries as a result of restrictions being placed on its use in developed nations due to the well-established link between asbestos products and respiratory diseases. India has become a major consumer, using around 100,000 tons of asbestos per year, 80% of which is imported with Canada being the largest overseas supplier. Mining, production and use of asbestos in India is very loosely regulated despite the health hazards. Reports have shown morbidity and mortality from asbestos related disease will continue in India without enforcement of a ban or significantly tighter controls [26,27].

UCC has shrunk to one sixth of its size since the Bhopal disaster in an effort to restructure and divest itself. By doing so, the company avoided a hostile takeover, placed a significant portion of UCC’s assets out of legal reach of the victims and gave its shareholder and top executives bountiful profits [1]. The company still operates under the ownership of Dow Chemicals and still states on its website that the Bhopal disaster was “cause by deliberate sabotage”. [28].

Some positive changes were seen following the Bhopal disaster. The British chemical company, ICI, whose Indian subsidiary manufactured pesticides, increased attention to health, safety and environmental issues following the events of December 1984. The subsidiary now spends 30–40% of their capital expenditures on environmental-related projects. However, they still do not adhere to standards as strict as their parent company in the UK. [24].

The US chemical giant DuPont learned its lesson of Bhopal in a different way. The company attempted for a decade to export a nylon plant from Richmond, VA to Goa, India. In its early negotiations with the Indian government, DuPont had sought and won a remarkable clause in its investment agreement that absolved it from all liabilities in case of an accident. But the people of Goa were not willing to acquiesce while an important ecological site was cleared for a heavy polluting industry. After nearly a decade of protesting by Goa’s residents, DuPont was forced to scuttle plans there. Chennai was the next proposed site for the plastics plant. The state government there made significantly greater demand on DuPont for concessions on public health and environmental protection. Eventually, these plans were also aborted due to what the company called “financial concerns”. [29].

Conclusion

The tragedy of Bhopal continues to be a warning sign at once ignored and heeded. Bhopal and its aftermath were a warning that the path to industrialization, for developing countries in general and India in particular, is fraught with human, environmental and economic perils. Some moves by the Indian government, including the formation of the MoEF, have served to offer some protection of the public’s health from the harmful practices of local and multinational heavy industry and grassroots organizations that have also played a part in opposing rampant development. The Indian economy is growing at a tremendous rate but at significant cost in environmental health and public safety as large and small companies throughout the subcontinent continue to pollute. Far more remains to be done for public health in the context of industrialization to show that the lessons of the countless thousands dead in Bhopal have truly been heeded.

Competing interests

The author(s) declare that they have no competing interests.

Acknowledgements

J. Barab, B. Castleman, R Dhara and U Misra reviewed the manuscript and provided useful suggestions.

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Islamist Terrorists Busted In Plot To Bomb Chem-Weapons Disposal Facility In “Peaceful,” Russia

[In a Russian city named “Peaceful” (which has obviously been built around a nuclear test crater), FSB forces busted three Wahhabi terrorists, with a bomb and a plan to detonate that bomb in a Russian chemical weapon decommission facility.  This would have killed several hundred people, minimum.  Somehow, these terrorists were hoping to translate this moronic “victory” for the “global jihad” into a ticket into the Syrian Islamists front.  It is unknown whether this chem weapon disposal facility was playing a role in decommissioning Syria’s weapons, but Russia still has tons of the stuff there, waiting to be safely processed. 

Since none of us here in the West even knew that chemical weapons or a disposal unit were in “Мирное.”  Who knew that the Stalinists who built this city were “old softies,” hoping for a better future?  Who even knew that Peaceful, Russia existed at all?  Apparently, Peaceful has always been a city on the edge of oblivion.]

Мирное. Россия (Peaceful, Russia)

Bomb for Maradykovsky

VZGLYAD

Bomb for Maradykovsky

Wahhabis planned to organize an explosion at one of Russia’s largest storage and destruction of chemical weapons. Prosecuted, detained two natives of the North Caucasus, who planned to go to “learn terrorism” in Syria. Victims of a crime could be hundreds of people.

In the Kirov region opened a criminal case in connection with the preparation of a terrorist act, reported Tuesday in the Russian Investigative Committee.

“The air-cache and taken by them in the non-residential building have been removed and the circuit components for the manufacture of explosives”

The case was opened against the two natives of the North Caucasus: 19-year and 21-year. They are suspected of committing a crime under Part 1 of Art. 30, paragraph “a” of Part 3. 205 of the Criminal Code (preparation for a terrorist act).

Risk of death of hundreds of people

According to the police, “in the period from September to the present, the suspects were preparing to commit a terrorist act on the object storage and destruction of chemical weapons in the village of Peace Maradykovsky Orichevskogo district of the Kirov region.”

According to the investigation, the suspects are active supporters of Wahhabism and arrived earlier in the Kirov region of Moscow. Terrorist attack, say in the UK, “could endanger the lives of hundreds of people.”

The motives of extremists in the Investigation Committee also called, but without specifics – “preparing for action in order to influence decision-making authorities and international organizations.”

“As an instrument of crime attackers planned to use IEDs and components for the manufacture of which were discovered and seized by investigators in a secret compartment, equipped with one of the abandoned houses in the city Kotelnich – added in the UK. – In the course of the search conducted at the residence the suspects were found and seized items relevant to the investigation, including the literature of extremist content, as well as passports in the name of the detainees. ”

In addition, it is reported that in respect of one of the defendants in another criminal case – for the crime under Part 1 of Art. 318 of the Criminal Code (violence against a representative of authorities). This is due to the fact that during the arrest he was active resistance to FSB and thus applied the abuse to the authorities.

At the moment, both suspects were detained. The issue of their arrest. Also ongoing investigations.

“Preventing terrorist act was made possible thanks to the coordinated work of the joint Russian Federal Security Service staff and investigators of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Kirov Region” – added to the IC Russia.

In turn, the Kirov portal Newsler.ru referring to the regional Federal Security Service reported that the detainees in the terrorist attack after the completion of the crime were planning to go abroad in one of the camps of international terrorist organizations, where they were to get skills of sabotage.

“In Kotelnich, very close – about 500 meters – from the object Maradykovsky, in the air-cache and taken by them in the non-residential building have been removed and the circuit components for the manufacture of explosives, a map object diagram HUHO and printed materials with signs of extremism,” – said the secret service .

And, as investigators later added, two detainees Wahhabis planned to go to this “learning Terrorism” in Syria.

“The Age of the detainees – 19 and 21. They had come from Moscow. The visit was followed by clearance of the passport check out, presumably to Syria for training terrorist cause, “- said at a press briefing on Tuesday, the head of the regional department of the Investigative Committee of Gregory Zhitenev, reports RIA “Novosti” .

Later on, having arrived in the region, friends and conceived to attack on the stock of chemical weapons, “received information on the significance of the object and the possible resonance,” he said.

Young men planned to blow up a bomb in the 10 kg of TNT.

This is not a candy factory

The fact that for the object to become bait for terrorists, said the head of the newspaper VIEW Tinkers city branch of the Russian organization “Union for Chemical Safety” Andrew Rams.At the moment there are seven Russian chemical weapons storage facilities located in six regions of the country. And the object “Maradykovsky” in the Kirov region is one of the largest. It reserves are concentrated about 17% of all chemical weapons, which is stored on the territory of Russia.

“Additionally, we have stored weapons complex design,” – said the expert.

The expert admitted that he knew about the foiled terrorist attack on the newspaper VIEW. And describing the state of security at the facility, said that it was much better than a few years ago.

“I remember that when we first started this movement, somewhere in the 98 th year, has direct access to some sites was not very difficult. But now, from the time when there began the destruction of chemical weapons (from 2005 – approx. LOOK) – before it was the only storage facility – as I understand it, the protection was carried out with all the most modern facilities, “- said the Rams.

According to him, the terrorist attacks or attempts of their conduct at the facility environmentalists have never heard of. But for various emergency situations, information received.

“There have been affected. But you know, it’s not a candy factory, “- said the expert.

There were serious concerns among environmentalists to object, especially at a time when there were just beginning work on recycling, on the methods of work, etc.

“We would like there to be involved and scientists, not just the military. In addition, we at one time were not given to any referendum or an independent public environmental assessment work “- he remembered source of the newspaper VIEW.

Responding to a question, why bother in Russia still keep chemical weapons, Andrew Rams said: “First of all, when it did, no one thought that it would have to be destroyed. It had to be destroyed only by natural means, that is, by its application. In the end, also had to destroy these very dense structure, especially when it comes to the types that are kept from us. The operation must be performed very carefully, in a special room with traps that the gases do not come to the surface, etc. This, of course, is one of the challenges for the rapid disposal of such weapons. And, finally, the case is not cheap, “- he said.

With regard to the possible consequences of terrorist attacks, the expert agreed with the FSB, which would be a lot of casualties.

“Stockpiles enough to not that man, and all living things around poison” – he suggested.

According Taranova, just a few hundred meters from the object begins Peaceful residential village, home to about 4 million people. They would be in danger in the first place. In addition, it is unknown wherever the wind blew, and this would depend on pollution and other territories.

According to media reports, on Maradykovskiy range – the second largest such structure in Russia – was filed almost seven thousand tons of toxic substances. In particular, there were about 4.5 million tons of chemical warfare agent VX, about 2 tons of soman, at least 230 tons of sarin, and more than 100 tons ipritnyh mixtures.

However, most of this arsenal in recent years has been destroyed. By 2015 it is planned to dispose of the entire arsenal at this place, as well as on all other chemical weapons storage facilities in the country.

In addition to the Kirov region such facilities are also located in Udmurtia (there are two, one is finished processing in 2009), Saratov region (finished processing in 2008), as well as in the Kurgan, Penza and Bryansk regions. In addition, there is a conserved object in the Samara region.

Other attacks and attempts to

Of the latter prevented the terrorist attacks in Russia, you can recall the incident in Bashkiria in the middle of September, when law enforcement officers cleared the bomb planted under power lines as early as 2004. According to investigators, Il’nur Akhmetshin, bomb threat, since 2006 the federal wanted list and was detained in Dagestan, passed RIA “Novosti”.

July 30 National Anti-Terrorist Committee reported that the FSB has prevented a series of terrorist attacks in Dagestan, where six bombs were neutralized with a total capacity of 50 kg.On 18 July, in Kabardino-Balkaria were killed four militants who were planning a series of terrorist attacks in their country.

June 27 bomb was found and defused at a stadium in the capital of Ingushetia, Nazran.

May 28 in the Volga Federal District were arrested members of a terrorist organization “Islamic Liberation Party” (“Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami”), who prepared a series of terrorist attacks in the Nizhny Novgorod region.

Also, we should mention about the arrest in May of this year, the organizers of the preparation of terrorist attacks in Moscow. Militants neutralized in a rented apartment in Orekhovo-.

“The members of this gang who commit a series of crimes in the territory of the republics of the Volga, in 2010, went to Afghanistan-Pakistan region, where received military training. After three years abroad bandits secretly returned to Russia, “- noted in the National Anti-Terrorism Committee of the Russian Federation.

FSB officers arrested the organizers and performers, but customers terrorist attack and remained at large – according to the intelligence services, they are abroad.

Last October, it was reported that the destroyed Kazan during the counter-terrorist operation Ruslan Kashapov and Robert VALEEV prepared explosion in crowded places during the holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

A 31 August 2011 to celebrate the Eid al-Adha in Grozny explosions, claimed the lives of eight people. Several other people were wounded.

Post-Soviet Infrastructure Collapse Requires Western Technicians and Investments

[In many ways, we are still watching the Post-Soviet collapse, as the machinery of the Soviet Empire is crumbling and the bill for its repair is rapidly coming due, on ruling Oligarchs who have failed to invest in reviving the State.  Money which should have gone into modernizing the lifelines of the vast Commonwealth of Independent States was short-circuited into the bank accounts of Russia’s top Communist officials and the most powerful Russian mobsters.  This great robbery gave a handful of mostly corrupt individuals the power to make decisions for the citizens of the independent republics.  For the most part, they made bad decisions for the people, but made unbelievable profits for themselves.  Life went on in the former Communist Empire, but it went on, missing the critical financial component.  Lack of infrastructure investments since the USSR collapsed and lack of workforce maintainance and student industrial education have resulted in a worker deficit that will go on for many years, either until new people are trained, or imported foreign technicians and corporate developers come in and fill the gap.  The Westernization of the Soviet industrial base may be inevitable, since the Eastern bloc relinquished the responsibility long ago.]

Central Asia, the next domino

Paul Quinn-Judge , Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos , Foreign Policy in Spanish

So slowly but surely, material and human infrastructure of Central Asia is disappearing: roads, power plants, hospitals and schools as well as the latest generation of specialists, those involved in its operation and were trained by the Soviets. Post-independence regimes made little effort to maintain or replace both the technology that is wearing out, and the staff who are retiring or dying.The funds for this purpose have been eaten away by corruption and the collapse has generated protests. It has even overthrown a government.

All countries in the region are affected by this situation one way or another.However, the two poorest, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, are desperate. Their own experts say that in the coming years there will be teachers for their children and doctors to treat patients. Power cuts in Tajikistan in winter and are a tradition.Last up to more than twelve hours in rural areas. Kyrgyzstan also in the electrical system failures are increasingly common. Experts in both countries are concerned about the catastrophic collapse likely general, especially in the energy sector. Unless you take out a policy change, will face a future of eroded roads, schools and medical institutions run by retirees, or a new generation of teachers, doctors or engineers, whose shares will be purchased rather than earned by its own merits. These problems are exacerbated by other political vulnerabilities, including the expansion of the insurgency, the aging of an autocrat in Tajikistan and Kyrgyz State dangerously weakened.

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are in the same direction. It is difficult to say how serious is the situation, since there is no reliable information or is secret. What it is obvious that extravagant and optimistic public statements are not reflected at all in reality. Hospitals marble facade model of Turkmenistan and the false prosperity of Uzbekistan statements are not the solution to the problems of these countries. Even Kazakhstan, the only country operating in the region will go through an ordeal because of deficiencies in their infrastructure. It has major problems especially in the area of ​​transportation and the training of technical staff. Any dream of economic diversification and modernization will wait.

The current dilemma living these five countries has several causes. When they were part of the USSR, were incorporated into one system, especially in the areas of transportation and energy. These interdependencies have been difficult to undo, and produced serious imbalances. During the Soviet era, everyone was forced to work together. Now however do not need or have good relations between them, especially when it comes to energy issues. Education and health services were affected by the term social safety net. But far worse is that governments in the region seem to have believed that the Soviet legacy would last forever. The funds should be allocated to reforms in education, training and maintenance were often misused and insufficient.

The consequences of this neglect are too terrible to be ignored. The rapid deterioration of infrastructure will deepen poverty and alienation of the state.The disappearance of the basic services provided to the radical Islamists, already strong in many Central Asian states, more arguments against regional leaders. They give you space to build support networks and influence. Economic development and poverty reduction will become an illusion, while the poorest countries will become even more dependent on the export of labor. In fact, anger at the sharp decline in basic services played a key role in the unrest that led to the ouster of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010. This resentment can be expressed similarly in other states in the region in the not too distant future, especially in Tajikistan.

Also, events in one of the five countries may have an adverse effect on its adjacent. In fact, a polio outbreak in Tajikistan in 2010 required an immunization campaign in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and infections were reported as far afield as Russia. Similarly, Central Asia may be adversely affected by its neighbors in the region: further decline in infrastructure is likely to match more instability in Afghanistan and a possible spillover of insurgency from there.

The needs are clear, and there are solutions to the weakening of the infrastructure. The fundamental problem is that Central Asia’s ruling elites are unwilling to take steps to meet the basic prerequisites. This amounts to nothing less than total repudiation of the values ​​and behavior of regional leaders. Need to purge the corruption of their governments to stop using the resources of their countries for themselves and their families and create a meritocracy with decent salaries would free up officers need to rely on corruption. These changes are so far from the current reality that foreign governments and donors surely struck from idealists. But without an organized change from above, there is a serious risk of chaotic change from below.

Donors are not doing anything to prevent this. His cautious approach seems largely inspired by the desire not to upset regional leaders to use the financial means at their disposal to create real change. Financial aid is generally used to meet annual or plans to move forward with broader geopolitical objectives.Without the participation of donors, the status quo will remain for some years but not more than that. The collapse of the infrastructure could weaken the regime, creating huge uncertainty in one of the most fragile parts of the world.
Paul Quinn-Judge is the Project Director of Crisis Group’s Central Asia 
Gabriela is Keseberg Dávalos Crisis Communications Group

Dealing with Soviet Environmental Damage In Central Asia

[Salt from Soviet state plans to tap the Aral Sea for irrigating the desert have created this environmental nightmare, in addition to damage to the inland sea (SEE: Disappearing Aral Sea).]

Old Farming Habits Leave Uzbekistan a Legacy of Salt

The New York Times

The diversion of rivers in Uzbekistan for irrigation has contributed to the Aral Sea, a large saltwater lake, losing more than half of its surface area in 40 years.

By SABRINA TAVERNISE

KHUJAYLI, Uzbekistan — Salt crunches underfoot like frosty soil on this bare stretch of land in western Uzbekistan.

“Thirty years ago, this was a cotton field,” said a 61-year-old farmer who has lived near this city all his life. “Now it’s a salt flat.”

Uzbekistan, a land-locked country that was once part of the Soviet Union, is home to one of the biggest man-made disasters in history. For decades its rivers were diverted to grow cotton on arid land, causing the Aral Sea, a large saltwater lake, to lose more than half of its surface area in 40 years.

But old habits are hard to break, and 17 years after the Soviet Union collapsed, cotton is still king and the environmental destruction continues unabated, cutting into crop yields. Uzbekistan is the world’s second-largest cotton exporter after the United States, drawing a third of its foreign currency earnings from the crop, but that status seems increasingly threatened by corruption, poor planning and the degradation of cropland.

Far less money is spent now on maintaining the vast networks of water drainage and irrigation that crisscross the country than was expended under Communism. Authorities spend about $12 per hectare on maintenance (a hectare is around two and a half acres), down from $120 per hectare in Soviet times, according to the International Water Management Institute. Blocked drainage pipes push salt levels up, damaging the land and dragging crop yields ever lower.

United Nations report in 2001 estimated that 46 percent of Uzbekistan’s irrigated lands have been damaged by salinity, up from 38 percent in 1982 and 42 percent in 1995.

“The delivery system is dilapidated, the drainage system is failing,” said one foreign expert, who asked that his name not be used because he has to work with Uzbek officials. “It is a big problem.”

How that has affected cotton production is a difficult question. Cotton and its production are ensnared in politics, so national statistics on it are scarce. But a pattern of decline in the industry was evident in three regions based on local figures provided to The New York Times.

In Karakalpakstan, the region that contains what is left of the Aral Sea, the total area of land under cultivation has dropped by 14 percent since 1991, according to local statistics. In the Bukhara region in the south, land planted with cotton has declined by 15 percent in the past eight years, and in Jizzax, a region in central Uzbekistan, 15 percent of the cultivated land has become too salty to farm.

In Manghit, a small city near Khujayli, an early sign of saltiness came in the 1980s when mushrooms that had grown along the banks of the mighty Amu Darya River began to disappear, a local farmer recalled. Soil that used to grow 4.5 tons of raw cotton, measured with seeds and stems, per hectare now produces 2.5 tons, and in some places as little as 1.3 tons, said the farmer, who asked that his name not be used because Uzbek authorities frown on people speaking to foreign journalists.

“When you see this salt, sad, dark thoughts take you,” he said, explaining that the salt is what is left when water evaporates after intense irrigation. “Nothing grows on salty land. It’s like standing on a graveyard.”

Uzbekistan’s environmental problems date from the 1950s, when Nikita S. Khrushchevramped up industrial agriculture, diverting river flows into a vast new maze of industrial-size canals. Slowly, the land began to change.

The farmer in Khujayli recalled a car trip with his father in the winter of 1954 near the city of Muynoq that began with a crossing of miles of Aral Sea ice. Now the shore is more than 50 miles away from the city. In the 1970s, his grandfather’s apricot trees died. Salt eats away at shoes here and turns bricks white. “For so many years we raped the land,” said the farmer. “This is the result.”

Sharing dwindling water resources is a maddening post-Soviet puzzle. Central Asia, once a single part in the Soviet machine, is now five countries with competing interests. Uzbekistan, the most populous, depends on its neighbor Kyrgyzstan for water. This year will be dry, Uzbek farmers and officials said, because Kyrgyzstan used more of its water than usual to generate electricity for heat last winter, which was unseasonably cold.

Environmental woes, however, are only part of the problem. Uzbekistan’s farming industry is still largely frozen in its Soviet past. Though the industry was rearranged several years ago to break the Soviet-era collective farms into private plots, the price paid for cotton is still set by the government, as are the quotas for how much to grow. The state price is set at less than one quarter of the world market price.

As yields decline and government prices remain low, farmers say that profits are increasingly elusive, and in some areas farmers have begun to abandon their fields. One farmer in Jizzax said he had stopped farming one parcel that had grown too salty, and he drove with a reporter past abandoned fields that stretched as far as the eye could see, more than 700 acres, he said.

As in Soviet times, production plans are not closely coordinated with the realities on the ground, and in Jizzax the local authorities, whose jobs depend on fulfilling quotas, have started to force bad fields — about a third of the cultivated land area in the region, according to local statistics — onto state institutions such as the post office, the state pension fund and schools, three farmers there said. Those, in turn, are forced to farm the land or to pay cash to satisfy the quota.

“Jizzax is an experiment,” said one of the farmers, who asked that his name not be published to avoid trouble with local officials. He provided a document for a plot of land that had been abandoned by a farmer and was now the responsibility of a local school. Farmers who did not meet quotas were fined and even taken to court, as was the case in April with 89 farmers.

“Farmers have no rights,” he said. “They are just ordered around by the government.”

The farmers who are fined must pay with cash, which forms the heart of a cycle of corruption that has enriched officials for generations. Those officials, envied and vulnerable to charges of corruption, change with the seasons: In Jizzax, there have been five heads of the main cotton processing factory since 2000, the farmers said.

Some farmers violate the government’s rules and plant crops other than cotton, a practice that has been encouraged by foreign experts who say that crop rotation will allow the land to rest. But the government has often prohibited other crops, not wanting to suffer declines in cotton, and farmers grow other things at their own risk. This spring in Tajikistan, a neighboring country that also relies on cotton, farmers were growing watermelons on the sly, as though they were crops of illicit opium poppies.

“We are destroying ourselves,” said the 61-year-old farmer in Khujayli. “Why are we planting cotton, and what are we getting from it? We never ask those questions.”

The government is starting to acknowledge the problem, and last year it issued an order that will set up a fund for drainage improvements. The World Bank is also financing a program to improve drainage.

Some experts argue that if irrigation is managed properly, the soil in most of the country can still be productive. Wheat yields, they say, have increased sharply in the past decade, which is evidence of soil fertility. In a study of 12 farmers in the Khorezm region over four years, Kirsten Kienzler, a doctoral student at the Center for Development Research of the University of Bonn, said their cotton and wheat harvests were not declining.

She argued that farmers were still steeped in the Soviet system, in which the state did everything, and while it is true that they do not receive world prices for cotton, they are also not paying world prices for fuel, fertilizer or water, which are subsidized by the state.

Even so, the state still owns the land, and farmers said they were leery of committing to large projects while they remained renters. A farmer in the Bukhara region said that he was no longer breaking even, since fuel prices jumped in the past few years, and that he secretly hoarded cotton to sell on the black market to pay his bills.

“I am stealing from myself,” he said, gesturing at a storage room piled high with illicit cotton. “Soon I’ll have to sell these,” he added, snapping the waistband of his sweat pants.

David L. Stern contributed reporting from Tajikistan.

The Toxic Fergana Valley

[There are things that have been left half-buried in the Fergana Valley that are far more dangerous than either “Islamists” or ethnic tensions.]

Transboundary effects in FERGANA VALLEY

In the Ferghana Valley are three areas of Kyrgyzstan (Osh, Jalalabad, Batken), a region of Tajikistan (Sogdian) and three regions of Uzbekistan (Andijan, Namangan, Ferghana). All emissions and discharges of pollutants into the environment remain in the valley. We look at some of its trans-boundary environmental issues and, in particular, cross-border impact Sughd Tajikistan on the environment Ferghana Valley. How does the Valley


Fergana Valley – a deep and complex structurally intermountain trough ellipsoid. It is almost surrounded with high mountains (Kurama, Chatkal, Fergana, Alai and Turkestan ranges), and only in the west is a narrow passage in the Hungry Steppe. The peculiar position of the Fergana depression and its surrounding slopes of the highest ridges of Western Tien-Shan causes a pronounced vertical zoning, reflected in the hypsometry of relief. From south to north, from the crest of the Turkestan-Alai mountain system to the sandy massifs of Central Fergana, can be traced all the main types of terrain typical of mountainous areas bordering the lowland deserts. In this direction, a change of major soil types – from mountain-meadow alpine desert to the typical gray soils. On the surface of the device to clearly distinguish two zones – a flat (center), and Piedmont. The flat consists of a combination of gently rolling plains with well-defined alluvial fans, and closer to the middle – from the flat plains and foothills terraced alluvial plain, the valley of the Syr Darya presented and its components – the Naryn valley and Karadarya. Plains bordered strip of foothills consisting of piedmont rises and the small size and zaadyrnyh mezhadyrnyh basins. tailings from innocuous main problem of waste in Sughd Tajikistan is the presence of large tailings dumps radioactive waste and radioactive low-grade ores. By the volume of the accumulation of radioactive waste Sughd significantly ahead of other regions of the Fergana Valley. In the area also has a Anzob plant for the extraction and enrichment of mercury-antimony ores, two gold-mining factory. The danger lies in the fact that most of the tailings ponds are located near populated areas and near rivers. Many of the tailings have fencing and warning signs, so people in the immediate vicinity of the cattle graze, uses their building materials. Digmayskoy on hills (close to the Region and the city of Khujand Chkalovsk), 9 km from the Syr Darya have active tailings pond PA “Vostokredmet” radioactive waste and recovery of rare earth elements (vanadium), area of 70 hectares. The orange color of its surface from a height is clearly visible against the background of green irrigated fields and orchards in the Ferghana Valley. Digmayskoe tailing is the largest in the country and contains 20 million tons of waste processing uraniferous ore and about 5.7 million tons of waste processing of vanadium ore. On the surface radiation level reaches 150-250 mc / hr. Due to stoppage of production for processing of ore tailings surface has dried, and exposed waste, due to which the increased potential for wind transport of dust from radioactive elements in the surrounding area. To reduce the impact of wind-tailing was planted with reeds. Located near the town of Chkalovsk tailing “Cards 1-9”, the total area of 267 thousand square meters, covered with a neutral soil thickness of 0.5-1.0 m, which is insufficient to reduce the radiation risk, which are major sources of radon and the products of decay. Near the village is located Adrasman tailing former uranium ore production of 25 thousand sq.m. and the amount of 176 thousand cubic meters Digmayskoe uranium tailing dumps radioactive waste backfilled Adrasman GOK, but remediation has not been done. Because of the infiltration of storm water runoff are radioactive substances, as well as erosion of the sides of the tail under the influence of mud floods that occurred in 2004. The quantity of radiation in the diffuse field is 160 mR / hr. The difficult situation has developed in Taboshar. After the cessation of production of uraniferous ore in 1991 around a mining company and the city remained the tailings area 573 thousand square meters and a capacity of 7 million cubic meters In the field of waste exposure due to erosion and run-off background radiation exceeds 300 mR / hr. Volume dump low-grade ores is 33 million cubic meters Dump and open pit is not reclaimed. These materials are washed away by the wind and rain. Given this condition, the local population and authorities are deeply concerned, therefore, in Taboshar RESCA project in 2005-2006. conducted a survey of radio-ecological areas and identified the risks to public health. tailings radioactive waste in the city Gafurov (a suburb of Khujand) is the most well equipped. There is a protective layer of 2.5 meters, fencing and warning signs. Tailings are held regularly on measurements of background radiation. The tense situation in Anzob mining and processing plant on the river Yagnob, upper tributary of the river Zarafshan. Because of natural disasters in 1998 was put out of action 5-km slurry pipeline to the tailings line. In 1998-2002, the production of mercury-antimony concentrate at the plant has dropped significantly. In connection with the industrial growth in the years 2003-2006 was sharply question the safe storage of waste, since the time cards are overcrowded and unsafe. Another major mining venture on the river Zarafshan – gold mill in the village of Sogdiana. The basis used here is the technology of heap leaching application cyanides, which are highly toxic substances. However, their solution is neutralized with time. Other hazardous product in gold mining are the impurities of arsenic. Waste is stored in a specially designed tailings. Conservation authorities annually survey its safety. On the other gold mining companies in the region – SP “Aprelevka” – established the reuse of waste production. Dialogue is necessary not solved is the problem of cross-border industrial waste near the town of Bekabad (Uzbekistan). Waste dumps and 5-20 meters in height on at least 15 hectares of Bekabad steel plant located in the territory of Tajikistan. In the immediate vicinity is a large waste dump Bekabad. Conditions of storage of waste does not meet the environmental requirements of both countries, but the dialogue to solve the problem does not develop. Perhaps the greatest immediate threat to public health and the environment is Sughd Konibodom toxic waste landfill. Chemicals, biological agents (overdue or prohibited for use) are located near the district center, near the Great Fergana Canal and Kayrakkum reservoirs. Kanibodom on landfill from 1973 to 1990 were placed and mixed about 4 thousand tons of toxic waste. At the bottom of the landfill no waterproof layer and drainage, aquifers are not protected against the penetration of toxic chemicals, no fences, no comprehensive data on the amounts and types of hazardous substances. Also there are no observation wells down to the terrain, where the city Kanibadam key reservoirs. Not monitored environment. REHRA project were evaluated risks to human health and the environment and provides recommendations to address the problem. Household waste in Sughd are produced mainly in urban areas and stored at 17 sites. Every day in the city of Khujand produced 400-500 tons of waste to take out 26 garbage trucks (mainly tractors) on the already overcrowded landfills, located 17 kilometers from the city. Other significant sources of waste are the city of Isfara, Kanibadam, Istravshan with the volume of education 15 thousand tons of waste per year. Currently, an increasing number of containers of garbage collection. DOMULADZHANOV I., I. HODZHAMBERDIEV, M. Abdullaev, A. Teshabaev, N. Abdugani (Fergana Polytechnic Institute) Source: ECO-HR.4081 (Lev A. Fedorov) Bulletin “For chemical safety “, as well as http://www.ekois.net/wp/ illustrate the material on SREDA.UZ drawings of children of bidders Gorkomprirody Tashkent.

Satellite imagery showed crater of the explosion in the warehouses of weapons in Turkmenistan

Satellite imagery showed crater of the explosion in the warehouses of weapons in Turkmenistan

Ferghana

Russian Research and Development Centre “RDC” posted on its website satellite images of weapons depots near the town of Abadan ( Trukmenistan ), where the July 7 explosion. According to the company, staffing of satellite imagery, which clearly shows the explosion and its aftermath, online, transferred to the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia.

Shooting warehouse using radar satellite RADARSAT-2 carried out on July 9. A detailed image from the device EROS A (resolution 1.9 m) was obtained on July 12.

According to satellite data warehouse near Abadan destroyed, smoky plumes in the picture for July 12 are not observed, but clearly visible damaged storage and craters of exploded ordnance.

Ammunition depot near the town of Abadan, Turkmenistan
Ammunition depot near the town of Abadan, Turkmenistan. Left: after the explosion, the shot EROS A, shooting date July 12, 2011 (ImageSat, ETC “RDC”). Right: before the explosion, the data GoogleEarth

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Turkmenistan Govt. Comes Clean (Sort Of), Fifteen Confirmed Dead In Arms Depot Blasts

Turkmenistan says 15 people dead after explosion

© 2011 The Associated Press

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — The authoritarian government of Turkmenistan said Sunday that 15 people died after a large explosion rocked a town outside the Turkmen capital earlier this week and lashed out at the coverage of the blast by the Russian media.

The government press service said two soldiers and 13 civilians died as a result of the explosion in Abadan, a town 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the capital, Ashgabat.

The blasts, which began late on Thursday and went on until early Friday, were caused by overheating at a fireworks warehouse that triggered further blasts at a military depot where outdated, Soviet-made ammunition was kept, the press service said in a statement.

An amateur, low-resolution video posted Sunday on a social networking site, however, appears to demonstrate the incident was the result of high explosives detonating. It showed a giant black plume of smoke rising after a blast accompanied by a loud bang and people and cars rushing away from the site.

The video was broadcast by Russian television and posted on independent websites critical of Turkmenistan’s government. Russian media claimed dozens died and were wounded during the explosions.

Although websites critical of Turkmen authorities are filtered in Turkmenistan, many are able to watch Russian television channels via numerous satellite dishes that dot every apartment building.

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday that Russian television reports about the scale of deaths and destruction are misleading and inaccurate.

Meanwhile, a human rights group said nearly 200 people have died in the blast. About a half of them are military officers and servicemen, said Khronika Turkmenistana, a website run by Vienna-based Turkmen dissident Farid Tukhbatullin.

It cited unnamed locals who also claimed that authorities detained anyone who was trying to take pictures or videos of the debris in Abadan.

Online satellite images show that a large munitions dump is located at the approximate site of the blast, around half a kilometer from apartment blocks.

Abadan is the site of a gas-fired power plant that acts as a major electricity supplier to Ashgabat. Power supplies to the capital failed sporadically Thursday evening.

Arms depot explosions are not unusual across the ex-Soviet Central Asia.

In July 2008, a fire spread to a Soviet-era military base in a town in neighboring Uzbekistan, setting off a chain of blasts that lasted for hours.

Turkmen “Fireworks” That Closely Resemble Grad Rockets and HEAT Artillery Shells

[The government of Turkmenistan insists that the explosion/fire in the city of Abadan were just fireworks, stored for future use.  They insist that it was a non-military site and that no one was killed or injured, even castigating the Russian media for daring to search for the truth about this devastating event.  The following photos were smuggled past the Turkmen “iron curtain” of censorship which is struggling to contain the truth about this national tragedy.]

“Fireworks” littering the streets of Abadan.  Look closely at the Brass artillery shell in the center of the photo, which looks like a HEAT anti-tank round.

In this photo, you can see a long thin rocket with the fins broken off, which looks strikingly like a Russian Grad artillery rocket. 

"Весь город усеян снарядами, они постоянно взрываются", - отмечается в сообщении newsru.com

Exploding AbadanChronicles of Turkmenistan

Effects of explosions in Abadan

The above photo from Fergana news shows a penetration hole in a building, caused, no doubt, by a very big “bottle rocket.”]

The Turkmen authorities to hide the truth about the tragedy in Abadan

Myahriban Dursunbaeva , © News-Asia

July 7 in the Turkmen city of Abadan began to explode the ammunition depots. Eyewitnesses report that the shells scattered around the city. Of Abadan and the surrounding area continues to receive alarming news about the situation in the city and the number of casualties.

Recall, July 7, at about 16.30 in the city of Abadan was an explosion. Later it became known that the emergency occurred at an ammunition depot, which, in particular, kept fighting the charges for installation “Grad”. Although official government data are to this day deny journalists News-Asia has information that the death toll has already reached more than 500 people and injured several thousand, hospitals are overcrowded Ashgabat. Blood for transfusion injured is not enough, doctors suggest to relatives to look for it yourself, but authorities say it is not necessary.

The seriousness of the situation in Abadan is the fact that the city is still off all communication: there is no light, no gas, no water. All around town there are military police patrol the streets of units, which is detected by a photo or video recording cameras are selected and delay removing.

According to witnesses, now in Abadan, a city still on fire. Continue to explode the shells scattered on the streets. The city virtually destroyed completely. We hear explosions in the nearby mountains. Presumably, there exploding rockets and shells complex “Grad”. We have already mentioned that the school was completely burned number 8, and the explosion left the ground located near kindergartens.

Children who have lost their parents, gathered in the city eyewitnesses and police patrols. Military collect the remains of dead bodies – a soldier carrying the service at an ammunition depot and civilians killed by unexploded ordnance and debris under the rubble of destroyed buildings. Streets filled with blood and littered with fragments of bodies.

In last night the city was invaded by marauders, who were robbed survivors of apartments, shops and stalls.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan on the official website of the country’s government argues that “the victims and destructions particular, the public is the necessary medical and other assistance. Part of the population living in close proximity to the scene, evacuated to a safe place. ” Ambassador of Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan, Soltan Pirmuhamedov told the news agency RIA “Novosti” that the media reports of explosions at ammunition depots were not true. Happened to him, “ignition of fireworks in stock funds for fireworks.”

Just the Turkmen Foreign Ministry issued a special statement, which was addressed to an audience of Russian media. It says: “Some Russian media have absolutely no relevant reports of the incident. Some journalists, distorting the real situation and disseminating information, implausible, dubious use of sources of information (meaning the residents, eyewitnesses and victims of event). Such actions by the Russian media are considered by the Turkmen side as provocation and causing extreme outrage, especially in view of the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, July 7 to the main international news agencies were distributed corresponding to an official report. ” Turkmen authorities felt that their statement of all media were obliged to inform the public, without questioning the authenticity.

Meanwhile, according to unofficial data, the night before Abadan (Bezmein) was opened for the local population – military lifted the cordon of the city, dropping people to those taken from their homes by the necessary items and documents.
have been confirmed and details of the taxi driver, who worked seven -8 July in the vicinity of Abadan and Ashgabat. Many of them are in the peak hour of the tragedy raised the cost of their services a few times, because they were confident that people will take advantage of desperate taxi.
Also, the portal News-Asia came confirmation that destroyed many of the administrative and residential buildings. In particular, provided photographs show Abadan residential areas with burnt-out apartments, as well as secondary school № 8.

– I was there and saw all the people, it’s horrible – blood, body parts, horror, fear and panic – reports of the affected resident Michael Nishukov. – And what they say, that will continue – it’s not true, you can relax. All ammunition was taken to the mountains and blew up.

– Reported that they began to evacuate from another town in the west – Geok-Tepe, there are also large stores of ammunition – says Alina Kirsanov. – The authorities fear that because of the continuing explosion in Bezmein can detonate and warehouses in the Geok-Tepe, and it is 50 miles from Bezmein … But an even bigger shock caused our president. When bursting shells, he said that exploded fireworks, stored for fireworks on Independence Day and other holidays. And then much damage there, and human sacrifice – even more so. Everyone helps and all is well. But many hoped that this time, all told the truth. What mourning announced that designate allowances, pensions, rebuild the city. Apparently hoping all in vain …

In social networks, witnesses and residents of neighboring communities Abadan still publish reports of new explosions, destruction and casualties.

Turkmenistan: Photos and videos from Abadan – bombed a suburb of Ashgabat

Turkmenistan: Photos and videos from Abadan – bombed a suburb of Ashgabat

Ferghana

Website of the Turkmen human rights activists , “Chronicles of Turkmenistan” published a few photos from the event – the town of Abadan, twenty kilometers from the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, where last night and tonight was heavy fire and exploded and stores of weapons and ammunition.

Exploding Abadan
Photo © «Chronicles of Turkmenistan”

Exploding Abadan
Photo © «Chronicles of Turkmenistan”

Exploding Abadan
Photo © «Chronicles of Turkmenistan”

Exploding Abadan
Photo © «Chronicles of Turkmenistan”

Exploding Abadan FIREWORKS?  yeah, sure.
Photo © «Chronicles of Turkmenistan”

Exploding Abadan
Photo © «Chronicles of Turkmenistan”

Turkmenistan: From explosions in military warehouses could suffer hundreds of people

Turkmenistan: From explosions in military warehouses could suffer hundreds of people

Ferghana

As it became known agency “Fergana” from its own sources in the capital of Turkmenistan , the explosions at military depots near Ashgabat would suffer tens and hundreds of military and local residents.

At present, around the town of Abadan (formerly Bezmein) at a distance of twenty miles or exposed cordon of policemen and soldiers on the roads set up checkpoints. Despite assurances by authorities that everything is under control, explosions still going on.

The place where the shells exploding right now, we can consider the good of the cosmos

As we reported, the first explosion at the ammunition depot at twenty kilometers from Ashgabat sounded yesterday, July 7, about 16 o’clock.

Data warehouses are located in close proximity to a military airfield “Ak-Tepe,” one of the three strategic airfields Turkmenistan, built in Soviet times. Immediately located and military unit, which serve as pilots and attendants.

Around a hundred people were directly employed in the protection of military stores of artillery shells and equipment. That they could become the first victims of yesterday’s evening and night bombings.

It should be noted that even in a picture from space shows clearly that is stored in Abadan, not “fireworks”, as officially stated in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. This – fortified military weapons depots.

As we told people Ashhadaba, explosions at a military facility lasted all night and still be heard on Friday morning. The exact number of victims set is not yet possible, however, their number may be close to two or three hundred people.

According to one of Turkmen experts, former military, who wished to remain anonymous, the warehouses are stored in Abadan projectiles that can fly apart in an explosion at a distance of 30 kilometers or more.

20 Years After Chernobyl–The Cover Up

The first catastrophe of Chernobyl was the meltdown itself. The second catastrophe of Chernobyl was and still is the subsequent cover-up. Hans Blix, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, charged with the promotion of nuclear energy, stated after the Chernobyl meltdown became public that “the atomic industry can take catastrophes like Chernobyl every year”. This cynical slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of victims of the accident seems to remain the dogma of the IAEA until today. The effects of the accident are still being suppressed, played down and minimized. Even today, the IAEA claims there were only 56 deaths. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are still are being affected: in Ukraine, Belarus,Russia, Poland and other western and northern European countries. Many victims have been neglected and remain without any help at all. Even worse: the IAEA has just recently called for a stop of aid to the victims in order to prevent what it calls victim-mentality. In reality, the organization’s sole aim is to promote nuclear energy and the pictures of tens of thousands of irradiated children with leukaemia don’t really fit into the picture of clean energy.
The IAEA, an organization founded and funded in order to “promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies” claimed in its report in 1991 that the population of the areas surrounding Chernobyl were “generally” healthy and there was nothing to fear. Another IAEA report in 2000 again took this stand, stating that with only a few cases of treatable, non-lethal thyroid cancer amongst children, no scientific evidence could be found to support the belief of rising cancer incidence or mortality. Following a recent conference of the Chernobyl Forum, an expert panel staffed with government envoys of the three directly affected countries and some UN agencies including the  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the following excerpts could be read in the world press:

“No evidence or likelihood of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found, nor has there been any evidence of increases in congenital malformations that can be attributed to radiation exposure.”

“Poverty, lifestyle diseases now rampant in the former Soviet Union and mental health problems pose a far greater threat to local communities than does radiation exposure.”

Dr. Michael Repacholi, Manager of WHO’s Radiation Program was quoted as follows: “The sum total of the Chernobyl Forum is a reassuring message.” He explains that there have been 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children, but that except for nine deaths, all of them have recovered – a survival rate of almost 99%. Otherwise, the team of international experts found no evidence for any increases in the incidence of leukaemia and cancer among affected residents. (…) The health effects of the accident were potentially horrific, but when you add them up using validated conclusions from good science, the public health effects were not nearly as substantial as had at first been feared. (…) If we do not expect health or environmental effects, we should not waste resources and effort on low priority, low contamination areas,” he explains. “We need to focus our efforts and resources on real problems.”2

IPPNW and many other organizations, states and institutions like the Belarus National Cancer Registry or the Centre for Russian Environmental Policy of the Russian Academyof Sciences have strongly objected to this cynical way of treating the Chernobyl meltdown, including the government of Ukraine. In many cases, the IAEA report is based on studies of more than 10 years of age, without taking into account newer scientific research. Numbers for dosimetry counts of the population are not available and the report thus relies on approximations, without clearly stating this. Mean averages are being created over vast populations in huge territories without knowing any concrete numbers. Health effects outside of the three countries were not even considered and significant amounts of data still remain classified and cannot be reviewed by outside scientists. Therefore, the results of the IAEA studies cannot be formally disproved but have to either be believed or not.1 Even UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appearantly does not really take the IAEA report seriously:: “…the exact number of victims may never be known, but 3 million children require treatment and…many will die prematurely…Not until 2016, at the earliest, will be known the full number of those likely to develop serious medical conditions…because of delayed reactions to radiation exposure…many will die prematurely…

Despite frequently cited statistics about the rate of cancer screenings and other medical follow up, few official attempts were undertaken to truly assess the results of radiation and many NGOs in the area, as well as the institutes cited in this paper criticize the publication of IAEA statistics, which are not based on any real facts. Fact is that a vast majority of the population is not being screened for cancer, is not receiving regular check ups, ultrasound exams or other types of secondary preventive measures. What’s worse, the IAEA is going public these days with statements ridiculing the so called “radiophobia” of the population and calling for an end of aid programs, which, according to the IAEA report of 2005, only serve to instil a victim mentality in a totally healthy population – a claim not only cynical, but potentially dangerous for the health of the affected population.

by Alex Rosen
 

S. Pflugbeil

Only 50 deaths caused by Chernobyl?

Press Release by IPPNW Germany on its new study

 

A. Claussen

Berlin, April 6 2006: A report published today by the physician’s organisation IPPNW in Germany and the German Society for Radiation Protection contradicts the claim by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that less than 50 people died as a result of the accident at Chernobyl (see IAEA press release of September 5th 2005).

The facts presented by Dr. Sebastian Pflugbeil, President of the German Society for Radiation Protection, show that the IAEA figures contain serious
inconsistencies. For instance, the IAEA claim that future fatalities due to cancer and leukaemia in the most heavily exposed groups are expected to
number 4000 at the most. However, the study by the WHO, that this claim is based on, forecasts 8930 fatalities. “And when one then reviews the
reference given in WHO report, one arrives at 10,000 to 25,000 additional deaths due to cancer and leukaemia”, says Pflugbeil. These inconsistencies
are not surprising, given the mandate of the IAEA: to promote nuclear energy. This prevents the Agency from being independent.

According to Dr. Angelika Claussen, Chair of the German affiliate of IPPNW, the point is not to contrast the “correct” numbers with the obviously false
ones provided by the IAEA. These cannot be claimed to have been found due to methodical problems. Essential data on the Chernobyl catastrophe have been kept secret, both in the East and in the West. Large epidemiological studies are very expensive and only possible with state support. “It is, however, possible to provide an informative basis to show to what extent and what kinds of damage we are dealing with when we are talking about the effects of Chernobyl”, says Claussen.

The IAEA is attempting to account for an evident rise in fatalities and disease by providing absurd arguments. “It is cynical, to say the least,
when affected people in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are told by the IAEA that they have a victim mentality, should feed themselves better and live
more healthily”, says Claussen.

The IPPNW/GfS Report “Health Effects of Chernobyl – 20 Years After the Reactor Disaster” documents the catastrophic dimensions of the reactor
accident, using scientific studies, expert estimates and official data:

  • 50,000 to 100,000 liquidators (clean-up workers) died in the years up to 2006. Between 540,000 and 900,000 liquidators have become invalids;
  • Congenital defects found in the children of liquidators and people from the contaminated areas could affect future generations to an extent that cannot yet be estimated;
  • Infant mortality has risen significantly in several European countries, including Germany, since Chernobyl. The studies at hand estimated the numberof fatalities amongst infants in Europe to be about 5000;
  • In Bavaria alone, between 1000 and 3000 additional birth defects have been found since Chernobyl. It is feared that in Europe more than 10,000 severe abnormalities could have been radiation induced;
  • By referring to UNSCEAR one arrives at between 12,000 and 83,000 children born with congenital deformations in the region of Chernobyl, and around 30,000 to 207,000 genetically damaged children worldwide. Only 10% of the overall expected damage can be seen in the first generation;
  • In Belarus alone, over 10,000 people developed thyroid cancer since the catastrophe. According to a WHO prognosis, in the Belarussian region of Gomel alone, more than 50,000 children will develop thyroid cancer during their lives. If one adds together all age groups then about 100,000 cases of thyroid cancer have to be reckoned with, just in the Gomel region;
  • Altogether, the number of Chernobyl related cases of thyroid cancer to be expected in Europe (outside the borders of the former Soviet Union) is between 10,000 and 20,000;
  • In more contaminated areas of Southern Germany a significant cluster of very rare tumours has been found amongst children, so-called neuroblastomies;
  • In Germany, Greece, Scotland and Romania, there has been a significant increase in cases of leukaemia;
  • In a paper published by the Chernobyl Ministry in the Ukraine, a multiplication of the cases of disease was registered – of the endocrine system ( 25 times higher from 1987 to 1992), the nervous system (6 times higher), the circulation system (44 times higher), the digestive organs (60 times higher), the cutaneous and subcutaneous tissue (50 times higher), the muscolo-skeletal system and psychological dysfunctions (53 times higher). Among those evaluated, the number of healthy people sank from 1987 to 1996 from 59 % to 18%. Among inhabitants of the contaminated areas from 52% to 21% and among the children of affected parent from 81% to 30%. It has been reported for several years that type I diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) has risen sharply amongst children and youth.

Researcher finds Chernobyl birds have smaller brains

Researcher finds Chernobyl birds have smaller brains

February 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) — Birds living near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident have on average 5 percent smaller brains, according to research led by a University of South Carolina scientist.

Twenty-five years after the Chernobyl disaster, low-dose radiation has proved to have significant effects on normal  development, shown by the birds’ brain size. Smaller brain sizes are believed to be linked to reduced cognitive ability, says Dr. Timothy Mousseau, a USC biology science professor who, along with his collaborator, Anders Moller of the University of Paris-Sud in France, led the team of researchers from the United States, Italy, Norway, France and Ukraine.

“These findings point to broad-scale neurological effects of chronic exposure to low-dose radiation,” Mousseau said. “The fact that we see this pattern for a large portion of the bird community suggests a general phenomenon that may have significant long-term repercussions.”

Mousseau said these types of defects have been previously reported in humans and other organisms, but those were at higher contamination levels.

Mousseau has been studying the effects of the Chernobyl accident for 12 years, exploring the ecological and evolutionary consequences of the radioactive contaminants affecting populations of birds, insects and people inhabiting the Chernobyl region of Ukraine.

In this study, published this month in the journal PLoS One, Mousseau and his colleagues studied 550 birds belonging to 48 different species living in exclusion zones set up around the site of the accident. The researchers found the small brains were particularly evident in the youngest birds.

“This suggests that many of the birds with smaller brains are not surviving to the next year, perhaps related to decreased cognitive abilities.” “Mousseau said not only are their brains smaller, but it seems they are not as capable at dealing with their environment as evidenced by their lower rates of survival”.

Stressed birds often adapt by changing the size of some of their organs to survive difficult environment conditions. The brain is the last organ to be sacrificed this way, meaning the radiation could be having worse impacts on other organs of the .

Mousseau said there is information in the medical literature to suggest that low-dose radiation can be harmful to humans, including recent studies on children in northern Ukraine who have higher rates of neural tube defects and related neurological disorders than other children in uncontaminated regions of the Ukraine and Europe.

Since 1998, the University of South Carolina has sponsored research related to the long-term ecological and health consequences of the radioactive contaminants that were dispersed over vast expanses of Europe in 1986. The research is important for the understanding of long-term consequences of and ecosystems and human health, and it will be instrumental in predicting the environmental half-lives of these contaminants. This research is also of significance for hazard assessment related to industrial, military or terrorist nuclear incidents and the effects of mutagens on evolutionary responses of natural populations.

Last year, Mousseau and Moller published the results of the largest wildlife census of its kind conducted in . The study revealed that insect diversity and mammals were declining in the exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear power plant. The research examined how often a species renewed parts of its DNA, thus finding a way to predict which species were likely to be most severely damaged by radioactive contamination.

More information: Further information can be found at: http://cricket.bio … u/chernobyl/

Provided by University of South Carolina

Ukraine Infrastructure Ticking Timebomb

Workers Warn Of More Deadly Disasters

KIEV, Ukraine — The nation’s obsolete infrastructure — including natural gas, water and sewage pipes — is a time bomb that could kill at any time. Natural gas workers have gone on strike in Kyiv to warn that more than half of the nation’s natural gas pipelines are in such bad shape that they could explode at any time.

Up to 5,000 gas workers are rallying outside National Commission of Energy Regulation and Cabinet of Ministers demanding wage and tariff increase.
Demanding a cash injection to replace the aging infrastructure, several thousand trade union members from all over the country gathered near the Cabinet of Ministers on May 13 and May 14. They dragged with them samples of outdated pipes that still feed Ukrainian homes with gas.

The risk of everyday living in Ukraine, the workers who should know best said, is high and growing.

“No one is safe,” said Ivan Yarovyi, head of the trade unions of gas companies. “Work is under way to fix the gas transit system which flows gas to Europe. Thinking about European security, we forget about our own people. It’s getting out of control when 60 percent of our pipelines need replacement. They may work for a few more years or surprise us [with a blast] tomorrow.”

The protests were heated up by a gas blast in an apartment complex in the Lviv Oblast town of Socrat earlier this month. It left two people injured and a dozen homeless, adding to the long list of casualties from fires and explosions. The Ministry of Emergency reported 73 deaths from these type of accidents in the first three months of 2009 alone. Another 100 people suffered injuries from breaks of obsolete utility lines over the same period.

Who should modernize these pipes is a tricky question. Lines delivering gas belong to the state by law. But private companies are allowed to lease them out. As a result, entrepreneurs are reluctant to fix infrastructure they don’t own. The national gas company, Naftogaz Ukraine, controls the monopoly but so far has failed to encourage its leaseholders to invest.

Geologists and utility sector workers compare the risk of living in Ukraine to a time bomb.

Central Kyiv, including the so-called Khrushchevka districts built in the 1950s and early 1960s, boasts not only historical facades but pipes old enough for museum displays. With obsolete water heaters and gas pumps, pre-war and some after-war houses are often shaken up by new construction sites in their neighborhood.

Water utilities are another source of alarm.

Before the May 9 Victory Day, Pechersk district — known as one of the most expensive and posh boroughs in Kyiv — turned into a miniature Venice when water pipes gave out. Flowing in ankle-high streams of water, plumbers patched leaks in the pipeline to nine houses and the General Prosecutor’s Office.

A few weeks prior to the accident, the municipal water and waste management company Kyivvodokanal warned of a looming disaster. The city’s obsolete water and sewer system is in danger of collapse, Vyacheslav Bind, the head of the company, said in April. “I mean we can patch the pipes or replace bearings, but the equipment we have is in a critical state.”

Experts say that if the notorious sewage collector located on the way to Boryspil airport breaks down, not only Kyiv but dozens of other cities along the Dnipro River will have to be evacuated.

Geologist and member of the National Academy of Architects, Volodymyr Nudelman, said that water system breaks occur every hour in the capital. “Kyiv is the richest city in Ukraine but there are so many danger zones here,” said Nudelman.

The quality of water is also unsafe. “The water is being disinfected with chlorine, which is a very dangerous carcinogenic substance and has been discontinued in developed countries,” Nudelman said.

According to the plan of Kyiv’s development, water was supposed be treated by ozone instead of chlorine by 2010. However, the plan is still only on paper, said Nudelman.

Authorities continue dozing through numerous alarm bells set off by exploding, cracking and hissing pipes.

When gas workers hit the streets a year ago in May to call on government to step in, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko ordered an immediate inspection in the gas sector.

“Ukrainian gas networks are completely destroyed. People get Hr 600-800 in wages and only 65 percent of the required workforce is employed. We are living in a powder keg,” Tymoshenko said, during the meeting with heads of city administrations and gas companies last year. “In a month, I want to see a plan of reconstruction and modernization of gas routes.”

Tired of waiting for this plan, trade unions staged the May 13-14 protest in hopes of being heard again. They suggest doubling gas transport fees up to Hr 16 per month for an average consumer. “A bottle of vodka costs Hr 20,” labor leader Yarovyi said.

Fed up with empty promises, many residents seem more likely to choose a bottle of vodka than to pay extra for leaking taps. Sadly, it may require a higher death toll before government, private businesses and consumers figure out who will pay for their own security.

Source: Kyiv Post

‘Second Chernobyl’ uncovered in Ukraine

Vodpod videos no longer available.

‘Second Chernobyl’ uncovered in Ukraine – paper

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant
19:35 03/12/2010
© RIA Novosti. Sergei Starostenko

A group of independent environmentalists has uncovered a zone in Ukraine’s Dnepropetrovsk region where the radiation level is higher than that in Chernobyl, the Ukrainian paper Segodnya said on Friday.

Regional authorities have dismissed the report, saying the ecologists used equipment not certificated in Ukraine.

The abandoned uranium mine, located in the Ukrainian village of Dovhyvka, poses a great danger to people and the environment, Oleksiy Vedmidsky, the head of a local group of ecologists, said.

“My particle detector measured 2611 micro Roentgen per hour there,” the environmentalist said adding that normal exposure is 30 micro Roentgen per hour. “Even in the Chernobyl zone near the reactor the exposure is 500-600 micro Roentgen per hour,” he said.

“This radiation won’t kill people at once; it all depends on the time you spend near such a powerful source of radiation. But there are no warning signs there,” Vedmidsky said.

Ecologist added that around 7 million tons of dangerous material were buried under the abandoned site

“According to our information, 7 million tones of processing medium are buried there,” ecologist Yuriy Babynin said.

Locals keep livestock in the abandoned site.

“We know that there was once a mine here, but we don’t know what exactly was processed,” Serhiy Leonidovych, said. When the mine was closed several workers received new flats in another city, “and those who remained avoided speaking about their work,” he added.

“People who are spreading alarm used a particle detector not certified in Ukraine,” Serhiy Milyutyn, spokesman for Dnepropetrovsk region’s administration said when asked.

Vedmidsky said he used a Geiger counter manufactured by a reliable U.S. firm and emphasized that he trusts its readings.

“The counters used by the government indicate only one type of radiation, while my detects alfa, beta, gamma and roentgen rays,” he said.

KIEV, December 3 (RIA Novosti)

Ukraine, Belarus Mull Growing Crops In Chernobyl Nuke Disaster Zone

Ukraine Mulls Growing Crops In Chernobyl Nuke Disaster Zone

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials are studying the possibility of growing crops in the 30-km zone of radioactive pollution near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, a popular Russian daily said on Friday. 

Pripyat, the city abandoned following the Chernobyl disaster.


A number of Ukrainian services and departments are conducting numerous studies to establish “areas that could be used for agriculture, some partially and some in full,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted acting head of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry Mykhailo Bolotskykh, as saying.

An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 resulted in highly radioactive fallout in the atmosphere over an extensive area. A 30-kilometer (19-mile) exclusion zone was introduced following the accident.

Vast areas, mainly in the three then-Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, were contaminated by the fallout from the major nuclear meltdown. Some 200,000 people were relocated after the accident.

The agriculture revival plan, initiated by the European Union, proposes cultivating rapeseed, also known as canola oil and widely seen as the most popular primary product to produce biodiesel, in the contaminated area.

Similar plans have earlier been voiced by Belarus, another country severely affected by the Chernobyl disaster.

“This crop has great potential, with the European Union, the U.A.E., Turkey and Pakistan expressing their readiness to buy it from Ukraine. This is really profitable,” a source close to the Ukrainian government told the newspaper.

Ukraine is currently among Europe’s largest rapeseed producers.

“The problem is that rapeseed depletes the soil. It may be grown only as part of a five-year crop rotation cycle. Or, it may be grown on lands which have no agricultural importance,” he said.

The government did not comment on the information.

The paper quotes an expert as saying that scientists have developed mechanisms of rehabilitating nuclear-polluted soil, which include growing certain crops and combining various types of fertilizers.

“Experiments show that… areas where rehabilitation measures were conducted can produce crops with almost normal radionuclide levels, hundreds of times lower than those where such measures were not taken,” the unnamed scientist told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

But many experts say that any attempt to cultivate crops in Chernobyl is “simply a crime,” saying that many dangerous isotopes buried in soil could be released back into the air and water when the polluted soil is ploughed.

“It is simply a crime – increasing air and water pollution by turning over polluted soil,” a former official with the country’s radiation and ecology watchdog said.

The plan is expected to be officially announced in March 2011, shortly before the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

Source: RIA Novosti

Talco Aluminum Monstrosity Money Pit

TALCO. Bermuda Triangle on Tajik soil

S. Zukhurov:
The company Talco – the largest enterprise in Tajikistan, which gives up to 70% of exports of the country, has once again turned to the center of a big corruption scandal. It turned out that the production for many years working at a loss, getting a ton of aluminum at the world price of U.S. $ 3000 only 700 – a sum that does not even cover production costs. In this case, at the largest factory of the country is worn out equipment, workers receive meager salaries. However, according to OAXK Barki Tajik (Tadzhikenergo “), SUE Talco, which consumes almost half the country’s electricity, is a debtor of the company’s number one, even though electricity is a strategic enterprise receives at low prices. And this in the context of what the problems with electricity supply in the country has evolved into a chronic, but energy prices are constantly increasing. However, the company is still afloat. How is this possible?

The fact that Talco, being in the form of property state unitary enterprise, fully owned by the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan. Quite profitable for the country: the higher the profit of the plant, the more of finance in the country – it’s still an impressive tax base. And indeed, all the profits of state enterprises for the idea goes to the state. But it is on paper. In Tajikistan, the same everything is not as it should be. For example, the alumina required for the production of aluminum, Talco bought a Norwegian company Hydro, and then sold the same company has already finished products. The prices for raw materials and aluminum were such that the winner remained the company Hydro. The circuit has been involved company “CDH Investments Corporation”, understandably registered in an offshore zone in the distant British Virgin Islands. That she received aluminum, sold for a pittance Tajik aluminum plant, from Hydro and selling it at market prices. Basic earnings getting any company to distant islands, the plant is located an hour from the Tajik capital, in Tursunzade, fall to scraps. For example, according to recent data from 98 million the company’s profits “CDH Investments Corporation” “Talco received $ 3 million, with which the company paid the taxes and the Tajik government. These schemes seriously interested in the International Monetary Fund, which at that time have studied the fate of 97 million dollars allocated to fight poverty. A lot of issues ripe for the Tajik government and the Asian Development Bank, who wonders where did delos half a billion dollars earmarked for the development of aluminum and cotton industry. In the statements of international financial institutions said softly “incorrect accounting. We’re talking simple – theft. In an unprecedented scale for such a poor country like Tajikistan.

About this issue mentioned as far back as 2004, when the report of an international bank, it was mentioned that Rakhmonov controls operations with billions of dollars of Tajik aluminum business. In the year 2006 the IMF warned that the details of the agreement on aluminum transactions are not fully transparent. In addition, the same rahmonovtsy “burned” in the British Supreme Court, when a lawyer let slip that the real founders of CDH not speak in English and living in Tajikistan. And then Rakhmonov and K º produced castling – to replace the company’s “CDH Investments Corporation” came “Talco Management Limited”. Scheme of financial fraud, however, remained the same. As a result of an audit conducted by the British firm Moore Stephans, it became clear that the company “Talco Management Limited”, registered in tax-free zone – in the British Virgin Islands – is a company with the Tajik government and reports directly to the President. Analysis of the results of the audit shows that in the offshore over the past four years, was withdrawn about 1 billion dollars in profit, and real income into the state budget from the activities of PMU Talco amounted to about 100-120 million U.S. dollars. Important fact: the administrative costs Talco was about half of all revenues. Interestingly, a highly-qualified executives run the company, not so long ago seemed on the verge of collapse because of interruptions to the supply of raw materials, and which due to complete lack of repair and maintenance of order came four hydrolytic bath? Then Rahmon with his entourage was forced to go cap in hand to London to Russian oligarch MF Senaninu, who led at the time of the Union “Tajik aluminum plant, which has agreed to help with continued supply of raw materials, but instead put demands: to restore the post of Head of PMU Talco A . Ermatov and resume activities in Tajikistan, the head of Russian company Ansol “Nazarova with the return of property taken away from them. Rakhmonov was forced to go for it, despite the fact that once these people he accused of corruption and the collapse of the aluminum industry. Well, yes it is in fact little things – something you will not make for “beloved” company, which is poised to become the champion, as having the most expensive management among similar companies in the world.

In the meantime, seeing that on “Talco Management Limited” clouds gathered and prepared Rakhmon back castling: the company Talco now on the verge of structural changes that may affect the use of financial schemes and management. It is expected that based on the PMU will create a new international joint venture (probably with an Arabic by Dubal and the Norwegian giant Norsk Hydro). To control them will be created an international Board of Directors, which will include several representatives of Tajikistan. Meet, however, will not all chuzhye each other person. Let’s start with the company Hydro, on which all already heard, including the High Court in London. In place of “CDH Investments Corporation” and “Talco Management Limited” will Dubal. Instead, the Virgin Islands – Emirates, respectively. No matter what, and pulls Rakhmonov and K º in warmer climes. Now, this thrust to the sun will be easier to implement – Emirates will close, all the Virgin Islands.

Let us reason logically: why plant owned by the Government, that is, in fact, the state, take away their profits from taxes because the state budget is small, and the money the country needs desperately? Perhaps this only in one case: if interested in this high-ranking government officials, for whom his own pocket more importantly the state budget. Who, precisely, is not difficult to guess. Workers and employees whether in jest, whether in earnest, the company called “Bermuda Triangle”. Today, this “Bermuda Triangle” is already full of Tajikistan – because here, disappears without a trace not only the profits of large enterprises, but also loans from international financial organizations. However, both can not continue forever: “ingenious” knight moves “and the” castling “is already included in the reports of all the influential financial institutions, and today Rakhmon official Dushanbe and nobody believes it. Soon they will have nowhere else to turn for help. That’s just what will happen if the country?

Saiddzhafar Zukhurov

Source – CentrAsia
Permanent address – http://www.centrasia.ru/newsA.php?st=1289026320

Soviet Era Toxic Time-Bombs Ticking In Ukraine

Soviet Era Toxic Time-Bombs Ticking In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine — The devastation left by the toxic sluge spill in neighboring Hungary is a stark reminder that Ukraine is home to dozens of potentially larger ecological disasters.

Built hastily in 1986 to prevent further escape of radioactivity into the environment and to protect personnel working on the site, the Chornobyl shelter isn’t considered a permanent solution to containing 200 tons of nuclear fuel. Already there are defects in the structure and the possibility of collapse cannot be excluded, a 2006 International Atomic Energy Agency report states. Recently, an American concern was commissioned to finish building a new containment unit whose construction was first started by a French concern in 2003.
The toxic sludge that has killed nine and injured 120 in Hungary and left large-scale environmental damage in its wake has reached the Danube River delta in Ukraine’s Odesa Oblast.

The good news for Ukraine is that Hungary appears to have contained the harm of the orange-red alkaline spill before it reached far down the waterway.

But the devastation left by the industrial pollution comes as a stark warning that Ukraine is home to dozens of potentially larger ecological disasters, many of which have not been properly addressed.

“A hazardous situation could erupt in just about any oblast,” said Dmytro Skrylnikov of the Bureau of Environmental Investigation, a Lviv-based nongovernmental organization.

The Hungarian disaster erupted on Oct. 4 when 757 million liters of sludge burst through a crack in the wall of a 10-hectare storage reservoir at an aluminum plant 160 kilometers southwest of Hungary’s capital of Budapest.

This is the same amount of crude oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the British Petroleum crisis that lasted four months until it was capped on July 15.

The caustic mass – an aluminum production by-product – in Hungary has coated 50 square kilometers in red slurry wiping out fish, microorganisms and wildlife along its path, and also destroying 300 homes and properties.

Crop production for human consumption will not be seen for quite a while.

The spill, described by officials as a man-made accident triggered by negligence, is now considered Hungary’s worst-ever environmental disaster.

But experts say the challenges facing Hungary with this accident are miniscule compared to the scale, risks and aftermath Ukraine would face in dozens of potential environmental tragedies.

Toxic dumping ground

The accident is a wake-up call about the region’s legacy of crumbling Soviet-era heavy industry. In Ukraine’s case, it’s also a reminder about the nation having been the toxic dumping ground of the Soviet Union.

Though Ukraine’s surface area made up 3 percent of the total area of the former Soviet Union, it possessed 25 percent of its industrial potential and, therefore, a quarter of its industrial pollution, according to the Environment and Security Initiative, a joint effort of international organizations.

Under the Soviet system, the economy of Ukraine used 1.3-1.5 billion tons of raw materials every year.

Most of which returned into the environment as waste. By 1991, 17 billion tons of waste had accumulated in Ukraine on a surface area of 53,000 hectares, according to the Environment and Security Initiative.

A study conducted by the World Health Organization released in 2007 rated Ukraine 47 out of 53 European countries in the number of deaths caused by environmental factors – 155,000 deaths per year.

Ukraine placed ahead of Belarus and Russia in the study, the latter having placed last.

According to the environmental protection ministry, more than 2.6 billion tons of hazardous waste was present in Ukraine in 2009. Approximately 35 billion tons of accumulated waste occupies 165,000 hectares of land.

The majority of hazardous waste is located in three oblasts: Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhya all of which have behemoth, Soviet-era heavy industrial plants and factories.

As of Jan. 1, there was approximately 20,500 tons of pesticides requiring disposal. The environmental ministry said this was an approximate figure since there could be other unknown pesticide storage sites.

By comparison, Hungary generated a little over 1 million tons of hazardous waste in 2007, whereas Ukraine generated more than 2.5 million tons of hazardous waste.

Skrylnikov from the Bureau of Environmental Investigation warned that significant dangers exist across the country.

“This is because proper control isn’t exercised over the outer parts of reservoirs and equipment, negligence in assessing the impact of new sites as well as corruption when issuing permits, during privatization or bankruptcy proceedings of enterprises. The new owners use any means to acquire valuable sites and land while leaving local governments with sites containing industrial waste,” he added.

The risk is considered high enough for First Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuyev to sign an order on Oct. 8 that formed a government commission charged with inspecting potential environmental hot spots in Ukraine to prevent a catastrophe.

Local hot spots

Ukraine’s environmental ministry and the Bureau of Environmental Investigation have named two plants whose industrial waste ponds, if breached, could cause a disaster similar to the one in Hungary: Mykolayiv Alumina Plant and Zaporizhya Aluminum Plant.

They have a combined 25 million cubic meters of waste in storage.

The environment ministry confirmed that it has started inspecting industrial, hazardous and toxic waste storage sites across the nation.

In 2008, a pipeline that pumped waste byproduct sludge burst at the Zaporizhya plant and ended up flooding four streets. The cause of the pipeline burst was human error.

A giant potassium salt mine in Kalush, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast is also a disaster waiting to happen, environmentalists warn. More than 40 years ago a factory was built there to mine the deposits of potassium salt and produce fertilizers.

The factory has three mines, a mine pit, two industrial waste dams and a mining waste dump, all of which negatively impacts the environment and which are hazardous facilities.

The industrial waste dams are close to overflowing, which could wreak havoc on the regional waterways – one of them has cracks already.

“The water contains practically every element in the periodic table, including radioactive heavy metals,” said Skrylnikov.

Former President Viktor Yushchenko designated the site an environmental disaster zone in February. Recently, the Ukrainian government has started removing toxic waste from the dump, Europe’s largest site of hexachlorobenzene, a hazardous chemical. It plans to remove 8,500 tons of it by the end of 2010. Altogether there’s 11,400 tons of it underground.

The total cost to prevent an environmental catastrophe in this area alone, is estimated at Hr 3.5 billion, or more than $400 million.

The carcinogens located underground had eroded the steel barrels in which they were stored and have been seeping into the ground water. They’ve been “underground” for 30 years.

The waste is being taken to an Odesa port where it is treated and then shipped to the United Kingdom for further utilization.

Acidic sludge has been seeping into local water reservoirs just 10 kilometers outside of Lviv city from a lubricant factory for 30 years, the environmental ministry said.

The ministry said it needs to immediately assess the environmental situation at the bankrupt factory to avert an environmental catastrophe. Local villagers in the area have been suffering from polluted water wells and air.

Prydniprovsky Chemical Plant in Dniprodzerzhynsk on the Dnipro River also doesn’t meet environmental safety standards, according to environmentalists.

Processing enriched uranium from 1949 to 1991, the plant has accumulated seven tailing ponds containing industrial and radioactive waste in an area of 2.43 million square meters, 250,000 square meters of which has uranium waste.

All seven of the tailing ponds are considered to be in unsatisfactory condition.

But the largest tailing pond along Ukraine’s section of the Dnipro Basin is a 73-hectare pond containing 12 million cubic meters of non-radioactive and radioactive waste, which is located just one kilometer from the right bank of the Dnipro Reservoir.

The dam lacks proper filters, security and safety checks, among other bare necessities.

Another site requiring immediate clean-up action is the Stebnytsky Potassium Plant in Lviv Oblast. Mining has halted, but it still remains one of Ukraine’s largest deposits of potassium salts.

The plant isn’t in operation because of an environmental disaster in 1983 when a dam burst at the reservoir. As a result, more than 5 million cubic meters of salt solution entered the Dnister River, Ukraine’s second largest.

The Chornobyl zone still poses a threat and contains several potential radiological hot spots, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Not officially closed until 2000, Chornobyl still leaks to this day.

Construction of a confinement shelter over the ruins of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant’s containment unit finally re-started this year, after 25 years.

The current shelter isn’t seen as a permanent solution but for years Ukraine and international donors mulled an implementation plan.

Enough money was finally raised and an American company was given the go-ahead to build a 108-meter tall sliding arch structure, which will take five years to build and which is expected to last for 100 years and cost $1.4 billion.

Until the structure is built, it is at risk of leaking radioactive fuel. Five million people, including the residents of Ukraine’s capital and largest city, Kyiv, live nearby. If a big leak breaks out, the entire region could be contaminated.

Source: Kyiv Post

Danube in danger: toxic timebombs from Soviet years put region at risk

Danube in danger: toxic timebombs from Soviet years put region at risk

String of disasters waiting to happen at sites across great river’s basin, says World Wide Fund for Nature

Environmental workers collect samples from the river Danube as it flows into Romania from Hungary.Environmental workers collect samples from the river Danube as it flows into Romania. Photograph: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty ImagesFrom the Black Forest to the Black Sea, the Danube meanders for almost 1,800 miles through 10 countries, its course punctuated by areas of great beauty and industrial disasters waiting to happen. 

The torrent of toxic sludge devastating tracts of western Hungary and the risk of heavy metals leaching into the great waterway have highlighted the dangers posed by the rusting heavy industrial plants lining the river’s banks.

In the past decade alone, it has been accosted by Nato bombs, oil spills and cyanide poisoning. The neglect that appears to have been the source of the problem at the Ajka tailings dam has environmentalists worried that there are dozens of other “ticking toxic timebombs” primed to explode and wreak havoc with Europe’s biggest river basin.

“There are a string of disasters waiting to happen at sites across the Danube basin,” said a spokesman for the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The organisation has used EU data and studies to compile lists and maps of pollution hot spots in the Danube area. Hungary has many vulnerable industrial sites but so do SerbiaRomania and Bulgaria.

In Hungary, anxiety is focused on another red sludge reservoir on the banks of the Danube at Almasfuzito, 50 miles north of Budapest. The waste here is similarly produced by turning bauxite into aluminium. Seven pools hold 12m tonnes of hazardous waste, including an estimated 120,000 tonnes of heavy metals.

“The pools have not been covered by clay to block leaking of water,” said the WWF. “The pools are more or less in direct contact with the ground water table and indirectly with the Danube. “An unusually high level of toxic metals as well as fluoride were detected in the monitoring wells several times recently.”

With 83 million people inhabiting the 19 countries that form the Danube basin, the river is the lifeblood and artery of central and south-eastern Europe.

There is no sign yet that the Hungarian calamity has affected the river, with all countries on the Danube monitoring the water’s pH levels every three hours and feeding the information to an office in Vienna for analysis.

“All the results show the water is quite clean,” said Mihaela Popovici, a pollution expert at the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube river (ICPDR) in Vienna. “We’re much more relaxed than we were a few days ago.”

Many of the threats to the river’s health are part of the legacy ofcommunism. Soviet bloc regimes promoted heavy industry including themining of bauxite, uranium and gold and placed large oil refineries along the waterway with scant heed for the environment.

The ICPDR has identified 160 hot spots in the river basin, more than 40 of which are classified as high risk.

Romania occupies a third of the basin, by far the biggest national chunk, and is seen as particularly problematic.

It is home to the most extensive and precious wetlands in Europe, the Danube delta, which is judged especially vulnerable.

The worst Danube disaster occurred in Romania a decade ago when a wall collapsed at a goldmine in the north-west region of Baia Mare, dosing the river with cyanide and heavy metals and poisoning drinking water across the Balkans.

The biggest goldmining project in Europe is underway in Romania, also using cyanide extraction methods.

In May the European parliament voted by a margin of 10-1 for an EU-wide ban on the technology, arguing that this “is the only safe way to protect our water resources and ecosystems against cyanide pollution from mining activities”.

But no EU ban has yet been decided.

Despite the alarm about the environmental risks, experts say things are improving. Until 2004 only two Danube states, Germany and Austria, were in the EU. The figure is now eight, meaning that stiffer European regulations and standards governing mining safety, industrial plant licensing and pollution are in force.

“It’s good to have better regulations but implementation is always a problem. That’s what we’ve seen in Hungary,” said Andreas Beckmann, Danube project co-ordinator at the WWF.

He said there had been huge progress in improving environmental disaster zones across the region since the collapse of communism in 1989.

“Many areas were also left relatively untouched. If there are great wildernesses left in Europe, they are in the east not the west.”