Some of the villages have long been overgrown with grass. When you go there it’s as if nothing ever existed. Just the earth, the river and the wind. It’s hard to imagine what once lay where you stand. There are others, still four villages, that remain. One has been relocated, kind of, it was moved 5 kilometers just last year. And, the other three have long been designated as a safe place to live.
But one has to question how safe the river is, there are high cancer rates and birth defects in each village. And when there is not a specific ailment to inflict, the uncertainty is enough to unsettle.
During the late 1940s, as part of their nuclear weapons program, the Soviet Union hurriedly built the Mayak Plant to make plutonium for weapons. Just one year after completion, in 1949, the plant began dumping high levels nuclear waste into the Techa River and they continued to do so until 1956.
Today, portions of the river cannot be used for drinking water or irrigation while others are deemed “safe”. But, the the Mayak Plant continues to dump large amounts of nuclear waste into the Techensky Reservoir Cascade, two large nuclear waste lagoons. These reservoirs are intended for dumping but it is said that up to 1 million cubic feet a year of contaminated water is estimated to be leaking and flowing into the Techa River each year.