Last update:

Kyshtym Disaster and the Mayak plutonium plant, Russia

Nuclear waste tank explosion in 1957 and decades-long radioactive contamination made Mayak one of the most radioactive places on Earth


The Mayak nuclear plant in the Southern Urals was the Soviet Union's primary nuclear complex built after the Second World War and included a set of plutonium production reactors, fuel production facilities, and reprocessing and waste storage buildings. From the start of its operation, the nuclear plant faced many problems related to the lack of health and safety measures.

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Kyshtym Disaster and the Mayak plutonium plant, Russia
Country:Russian Federation
State or province:Chelyabinsk oblast
Location of conflict:Ozyorsk
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Nuclear waste storage
Nuclear power plants
Specific commodities:Plutonium, nuclear waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

The first accident occurred in 1953, when several workers developed radiation sickness, however it went unreported.

See more
Project area:2,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:272,000 - 400,000
Start of the conflict:1976
Company names or state enterprises:Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) from Russian Federation
Relevant government actors:The Russian Federation government, The Russian State Nuclear Corporation - Rosatom, The Ministry of Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief, and The Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Greenpeace International and Russia; Ecodefense!; Planet of Hopes (Planeta Nadezh)
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Refusal of compensation
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Air pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsGenetic abnormalities and miscarriages, acute myeloid leukemia and other types of cancer, radiation sickness and amputations due to radiation burns
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (undecided)
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:The NGOs and local residents demanded that the river Techa be recognized as a “site of storage of radioactive waste” and protected with a sarcophagus.
In 2008, Rosatom evacuated some of the affected villages, while many decided not to exchange their family houses with small apartments offered by the government.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Mayak nuclear waste reprocessing plant is in operation and has doubled its capacity recently. Environmentalists remain concerned about the safety standards applied in the plant.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Mayak: A 50-Year Tragedy
[click to view]

ROSATOM’S MAYAK: more reprocessing, more contamination
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

The Kyshtym Disaster
[click to view]

First load of nuclear waste from Andreeva Bay arrives in Mayak
[click to view]

The second biggest nuclear disaster in history
[click to view]

Mayak: A 50-year tragedy
[click to view]

Nuclear History – the forgotten disasters
[click to view]

Mayak Plant Exposes Thousands To Harmful Radiation
[click to view]

The Kyshtym Disaster: The Largest Nuclear Disaster You've Never Heard Of
[click to view]

1957 - Ozyorsk, Russia - Kyshtym Mayak Nuclear Waste Reprocessing Center - Chelyabinsk
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Greenpeace International video for the 60th anniversary of the explosion in Mayak
[click to view]

Other documents

Greenpeace poster on the Mayak catastrophe "The people around Mayak have seen Rosatom's real face"
[click to view]

A radiation sign at the Techa River's edge The continuous pollution form the Mayak plant transformed the river Techa in a “as liquid radioactive waste”
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental (CIGA) - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), vankajo(at)
Last update06/11/2017
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.