The uranium tailings dumped near the Kyrgyz city of Mailuu-Suu began to cause serious concerns among environmental organizations of Kyrgyzstan due to the heavy precipitation that has become frequent here in recent years. In the event of natural disasters, not only residents of the Fergana Valley, but also almost all of Central Asia may be in the disaster zone. According to estimates of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), with a possible strong natural disaster, up to 50 percent of radioactive waste can be dumped into nearby rivers, leading to an environmental disaster in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. The EurAsEC experts estimated that about 5 million people will be in the zone of ecological disaster. Currently, gamma background only on the surface of tailings makes up to 60 microroentgen per hour, which exceeds the norm by 3 times, in abnormal places up to 1000 microroentgen per hour.
Mailuu-Suu is located in the western part of the Fergana Range in Kyrgyzstan. For a long time it was closed. In the city for 22 years of work (1946-1967) of two hydrometallurgical plants, 10 thousand tons of uranium oxide was extracted. There are 23 tailing sites with a total volume of 2 million cubic meters of radioactive waste. The total area of tailings is 432.0 thousand square meters. The danger of the situation is such that there are more than this number of uranium tailings, as there is nowhere else in the world.
According to the press service of the Ministry of Ecology and Emergency Situations (MEES) of Kyrgyzstan, on the evening of April 13 of this year. in Mailuu-Suu, a small part of the Tectonic-1 landslide with a volume of 300 cubic meters has descended. “As a result of the landslide, the road to the village of Sary-Bee was completely blocked,” said Tailiigul Mamasaliyeva, head of the Mayuu-Suu mayor’s office, more than three thousand people were cut off from the outside world. The landslide is in a state of progress, the situation remains extremely difficult. ”
Due to the overlap of the river, then the water flooded the territory of the KyrgyzElectroisolite plant. Damage is estimated at about $ 122 thousand, so far, fortunately there are no casualties. The possibility of the development of such a scenario is confirmed by the accident that occurred in 1958 when a breakthrough occurred in one of the repositories with uranium waste with the subsequent release of about 600 thousand cubic meters of radioactive pulp into the Mailuu-Suu river with catastrophic consequences, including death.
“Landslides are of particular danger in the Mailuu-Suu region, as they threaten not only residential areas, but also radioactive waste storage facilities,” said Adyl Zhumabayev, head of the Monitoring and Forecasting Department of the Ministry of Environment and Emergency Situations. “The beginning of the activation of landslide processes has been observed since the mid-90s, when the mountain slopes began to emerge from their natural equilibrium state, which caused the response chain reactions of the environment.” According to Zhumabayev, if the Tectonic-1 landslide moves in full, the results can be terrifying. When a congestion of nearby rivers forms a reservoir, then tons of water, sweeping away tailings with uranium waste, will rush down the Syrdarya river.
It is important to note here that the landslide regime in the Mailuu-Suu region has acquired a continuous character, which is explained by a combination of unfavorable factors: man-made disturbance of mountain slopes, the presence of tectonic disturbance zones, shallow water-resistant layers; high seismicity of the area; nature and frequency of precipitation.
With such a development of events, a natural catastrophe can turn into an environmental one, since dumps, tailings of radioactive waste and production with toxic reagents can be found in the zone of landslide damage, flooding and mudflow.
The reality of such a development of the chain of dangerous events is confirmed by the situation that occurred in 1994, when the riverbed was blocked by landslide masses, then containers with a toxic substance escapes fell into the river. As a result, a poisonous cloud was formed, which spread up to Andijan.
This problem cannot be solved without the help of neighboring countries. The measures to prevent the danger of the Ministry of Environment and Emergency Situations of Kyrgyzstan attracted the Uzbek and Russian sides. With the assistance of the Ministry of Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation, a feasibility study of technical projects for the rehabilitation of tailings in Mailuu-Suu was prepared.
The main miscalculations that predetermined environmental tensions, experts call the unsuccessful choice of places for storing and storing waste, carried out mainly for reasons of short-term economic benefits. As a result, tailings and dumps, located as close as possible to factories and mines, turned out to be, firstly, in close proximity (less than 200 meters) to residential buildings, i.e. without the formation of the necessary sanitary protection zone, which must be at least 3 km. Secondly, these dangerous, from an environmental point of view, objects were located in the riverbed and floodplain of mudflow-prone rivers and streams, washing away the dump slopes or dams of tailings.
At the beginning of the 1940s, the production and enrichment of radioactive ores, that is, uranium, which was used to create the first atomic bomb of the Soviet Union, was established in the territory of Sogd Oblast, in the north of the country. The “Vostokredmet” association, located in the town of Chkalovsk (17 kilometers from the administrative center of Sogd - Khojent), was built in 1944. The construction was supervised personally by Lavrentiya Beria, the then head of the country's main special service.
According to various data, in the northern regions of Tajikistan, without appropriate security measures, there are 12 tailing dumps with radioactive waste, in which about 100 million tons of radioactive waste are stored.
Tailing dump - the so-called places where the waste is processed radioactive ores. One of these tailings is located in the village of Taboshar, located 40 kilometers from the administrative center of the Sughd region of Khujand.
In the Soviet Union, on the maps of the country, a city called Taboshar with a population of 20,000 people was never indicated. The settlement was top secret. The first uranium plant in Taboshar was built in 1946.
About 20 years in this city mined uranium. Then the production of uranium was discontinued. Enterprises are partially preserved, partially abandoned in the open air. Today, about ten thousand people live in and around Taboshar. Most of the inhabitants of the uranium city with the collapse of the USSR and the beginning of the civil war in the country, 1992-1997, left Tajikistan.
On the way to the Tajik uranium city Taboshar in rare cases, you can find a police post. Now you can get to Taboshar without any problems, even without receiving a special pass.
For all the work of the production in Taboshar, uranium was mined here in a hurry and also promptly buried the waste of uranium ores, sometimes without observing any safety measures, experts say.
Today, according to city chairman Said Zokirov, millions of dollars are needed to maintain the burial grounds. “To begin concrete work for the global rehabilitation of tailings, at least six million US dollars are needed. The process of dumping uranium ore wastes was in the 50s of the last century, and in the 60s it was already completed. Since then, production no longer exists, but the problem remains to us a legacy from the USSR, ”says Tabashar Mayor Said Zokirov.
According to Tabashar Kamollidin Najmiddinov, Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the main danger in storing these wastes is rains.
“A few years ago, when mudslides collapsed, all the defenses that were above these tailing dumps were filled with rocks that descended from the mudflow. Repeated mudflows can lead to the washing out of radioactive waste that is buried here, ”said Kamollidin Najmiddinov.
The inhabitants of Taboshar compare their city with Mars. Everywhere there is a dug earth and hills of bright red color. According to expert estimates, the length of all tailing dumps is 180 hectares of land and over 54 million tons of uranium wastes are buried there. Part of the burial grounds are completely open, and the waste is lying on the ground in close proximity to settlements, which has now become a source of income. Says one of the employees of the Tajik state enterprise "Vostokredmetall", who did not want to give his name.
“Business guys hire workers for a small fee. At night, although we have security there, they manually break open with picks, shovels, ketmen, dig up these pipes, this stainless steel, saw them manually and pass them somewhere. I can not understand how to take radioactive metals. We measured - up to one and a half microrengen per hour in the place where these metals were taken. Our guards cannot reside there permanently, as this is not operating equipment. We can do nothing. "
Previously, the city was Russian-speaking. Most of its residents are specialists who in the Soviet years were sent to Tabashar in the direction.
Today, there are few Russian-speaking residents in Tabashar. But in the city there are schools with Russian language of instruction. Most of the students in these schools are Tajiks and Uzbeks. Studying in Russian schools is prestigious, Tabasharians say, this is a guarantee of a good education, and an old tradition.
Doctors Tabashara could not answer the question about the average life expectancy of people living here. Doctors have no money for medical research. Until now, not a single somoni was allocated from the state budget for the needs of Tabasharians. The state of affairs, meanwhile, is very serious, says doctor Janushoy Mamadkulova
“The population suffers mainly from cancer, especially in the case of young women and girls. Children are born with congenital deformities. Most often this happens with a Pervorotka. Recently, there are a hundred genera in two cases of congenital deformity. On average, we have 200-250 births, ”says Yanusha Mamadkulova
This year, for the first time in the last 12 years, an amount for Tabashar has been included in the country's budget.