A Russian Ecologist’s Confession: For Speaking About Radioactive Contamination from Mayak, I Was Forced to Leave the Country

By Sophia Adamova | Google translated from original article in Russian

The Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring has finally published information on the releases of ruthenium-106 in the Urals. In the period from September 26 to October 1, in the areas adjacent to Mayak PA in the Chelyabinsk region, Roshydromet recorded an extremely high radionuclide. The first data on air pollution were published by German researchers. However, the Russian authorities denied the conclusions of the German experts. The human rights activist, environmental activist Nadezhda Kutepova was one of the first who found out that the leak occurred on Mayak. The head of the Kutepov Center helped victims of radiation in the Chelyabinsk region to fight for their rights, but under pressure from the authorities, she had to leave the country. Nadezhda Kutepova told The Insider how the closed city of Ozersk is organized, why Rosatom and Mayak hide information about accidents, and why, despite numerous deaths, the plant continues to discharge radioactive waste into the Techa River.


The city of Ozersk began to be created in 1945, when the Soviet Union decided to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons on an industrial scale. For this purpose, a site was chosen between the cities of Kyshtym and Kasli, where the first military men and builders arrived – to clear and cut down the forest.

In 1948 my grandmother came there, she was a chemical engineer , and she was mobilized by the Communist Party. She arrived there with two children – my mother and her brother. Grandma worked at the Mayak until 1960, in 1965 she died of lymphogranulomatosis, in fact she made the first plutonium with her own hands.

Information about the largest radioactive accidents that occurred at the Mayak was secret until 1989. The first accident is a three-year discharge of highly radioactive waste into the Techa River, which occurred from 1949 to 1952. At that time, there were 39 settlements in Techa, whose residents actually drank radioactive waste from the river. By 1962, 34 villages had been evacuated and destroyed.

September 29, 1957, there was an explosion of an underground tank with highly radioactive waste. The same waste that exploded into the Techa River exploded – they were stored underground, and one tank exploded.

Information about these accidents was classified, the Chernobyl accident became the basis for its discovery, because most of the people who worked at Mayak went to Chernobyl as the main specialists. Ozersk remained a secret city until 1994.

I was born in 1972 and grew up in Ozersk, in 1999 I created the public organization “The Planet of Hopes”. The reason for this was my absolutely random participation in one of the conferences, which was attended by the head of the then environmental department of Ozersk. One must understand that people in Ozersk are different from people who live outside of it, because they were originally brought up for the fulfillment of their extremely important task of creating a nuclear shield, and from the earliest childhood we are accompanied by an atmosphere of secrecy.

In my childhood, when I left the city for Sverdlovsk to visit my grandmother, my parents always warned me that I should not tell anyone where I came from, otherwise my parents would be arrested. Why am I saying this? In order to emphasize that residents are able to keep secrets for decades , and even if a serious incident occurs, they will continue to remain silent.


When I set up the organization, I did not announce that we would fight with Mayak. We registered, and at first no one paid any attention to us.

Our first project was devoted to protecting the rights of pregnant women. I remember how the head of PR “Mayak” came to see me: he decided that we tell pregnant women that it is impossible to import spent nuclear fuel into the city. Then, at these courses for pregnant women, we opened a legal reception: first, a professional lawyer conducted the consultation, then gradually I began to receive people myself. In 2003, we opened a public reception center for human rights, and it immediately became clear that our specialization would be protecting human rights from regime restrictions in closed cities and protecting the rights of victims of radiation.

Nadezhda Kutepova

We had to go through several waves of persecution. In 2004, the FSB banned the conduct of a sociological survey in our city. In 2008 and in 2009, we started a case of non-payment of taxes from charitable funds: this was due to the fact that one of the cases I was conducting was considered in the European Court. This happened after the accident of 2007, that’s when I published information about what happened. Unfortunately, we could not survive the persecution.

In 2013, I told about the first case of the third-generation child’s death as a result of the impact of radiation on her grandmother. Grandmother was the liquidator of the 1957 accident. The girl was born in 2005, in 2009 she was diagnosed with cancer, in 2011 she died. The connection between the radiation impact on the grandmother and her illness was officially established. This happens infrequently, and we filed a lawsuit in the Mayak Production Association about moral damage. When first in 1993, and then in 1998, a law was passed that protects the rights of citizens who suffered from two accidents, which I mentioned, there could be no foreseeing the appearance of such a category as children of the third generation who would die from the effect of radiation on the great-grandparents. Accordingly, the law simply does not.

I had to turn to the norms of the Civil Code; nevertheless, the Ozersky court refused us, because in 1957 there was no legislation on compensation for moral damage. All my appeals to the absurdity of this statement, the arguments that the girl was not born in 1957, and even her mother was not then, did not have an impact on the judge: she ruled that this issue in the legislation has not been worked out, and she is a pioneer not going. This case received a lot of publicity in the Urals. I was called by many people who had sick children, and now they began to doubt the causes of their illnesses and admitted that the disease was transmitted through a generation.

At this time, the Ministry of Justice, in the framework of another inspection of our organization, found foreign funding – it really did. In general, we were the most verified organization in the region, we were verified every 10 times more than “Mayak”.

In 2008-2009, when we were tried for compensation, we were tested by several levels of arbitration courts of the Russian Federation. We won that court, and they began to deliberately seek out political activities in order to apply the law on foreign agents to us. At that time, I was an advisor to the Chelyabinsk region’s human rights commissioner. It must be said that during the governor Yurevich the situation with human rights and with the rights of the victims was not so deplorable as it is now. Governor Yurevich always treated the PA “Mayak” with suspicion and distrust, he was on the side of people.

History with the recognition of us as foreign agents occurred immediately after his departure and the appointment of a new governor. The political activities of our organization are recognized by my four interviews. The first one is called “The Death of the Liquidator’s Granddaughter” – about the case of Regina Khasanova. The second note is that I am discussing Article 42 of the Constitution “The Right to a Favorable Environment”: it does not work in the Chelyabinsk region, and the courts are a priori in the pro-Moscow and pro-Anatolian positions. Also, two articles about my participation in the round table in Rosatom on human rights in closed cities is a very serious topic, there are a lot of restrictions, not for radiation, but for illegal actions by FSB against ordinary people.

In April 2015, the Ministry of Justice sends the documents to the court, on May 26 the court recognizes our organization as guilty that we have not been registered by foreign agents. On May 27, Russian television in Vesti broadcast shows a report in which it says that our organization was engaged in industrial espionage for foreign money.

Then we received a court decision stating that the activities of our organization are in conflict with the security interests of the Russian Federation, and in general, this is the description of the Criminal Code article on high treason. At this point, the lawyer recommended that I leave urgently, because, in all likelihood, something was being prepared against me personally.

At that time a film entitled “The Nuclear Heart of Russia” was released on regional television. The interview is given by the Mayor of Ozersk, the former director of the local FSB, he charges me with destroying the nuclear shield, creating chaos in closed cities and shutting down the reactor.

Correspondent Olga Skabeeva, who showed on the air the personal data of the ecologist

Next on “Russia-24” comes the story that we are engaged in industrial espionage, and on July 2 the program “Special correspondent” Skabeeva appears in the air, in which she shows my personal data – the house in which I live in Ozersk – it is impossible do not know, the entrance and the door with the number of my apartment – and says: all espionage activity is from here. Then I have nothing left, how to collect things and immediately leave, because I regard this as a personal threat.

July 6, 2015, in an atmosphere of strict secrecy, I leave Ozersk together with the children and leave for France. Why to France? Because the Human Rights Federation has been following our well-being and work since 2009, after the case when we were accused of non-payment of taxes. She offered her help in my arrangement.

The first year in France was simply awful, I do not even want to talk about him. I considered it my mission to talk about what happened, about the 1957 accident, only last year I gave more than 50 interviews. I remain in contact with people from the region. Although the main thing for me is the feeling – that people in the region were left abandoned. And, of course, the state did not fail to take advantage of this: in fact, work in the courts to protect the rights of victims was stopped .

The expert council on establishing a causal link ceased its work, it is not funded, now from 2015 in the region there are no citizens who fell ill due to the impact of radiation. I’m physically in France and mentally half live in Ozersk – that is, I get up in the morning, open the lake sites and read all the Lake news, because I’m going to return.


The last few years, we have been working to protect the rights of victims. Our struggle with Mayak was to reveal what the factory was hiding; At the same time, we demanded the resettlement of the four villages that remained on the Techa River.

In 2005, under pressure from environmental organizations, the Prosecutor General’s Office instituted a criminal case against the director of the Mayak, named Sadovnikov. Then in 2006 he was tried, but he managed to avoid happily happily, and he fell under the amnesty by age. For a long time no one saw this judgment. In order to receive it, I organized a lawsuit against Rosatom in order to force them to close the Techa River.

We tried to achieve the construction of a “sarcophagus”; At the trial, we finally received a court decision from the criminal case of the director, in which it was written that Mayak had discharged 60,000 tons of radioactive waste into the river, an examination was conducted that the water in the Techa is radioactive waste. “Mayak” built a new dam in order to prevent a dump, but it still continues. Kiriyenko at that time we were very interested in – he only took office, did something. We relocated people from the contaminated area of ​​Muslyumovo – although it is difficult to name the resettlement, since Kiriyenko himself created a fund that pumped money, there were many violations.

And in 2007 there was an accident. Events evolved as follows: an anonymous source called my number, who reported that at the Mayak PA, at the same 235 plant, an accident occurred – a break in the slurry pipeline. The pulp is radioactive (the pulp is a liquid that contains suspended radioactive substances), the slurry pipeline has been damaged in some work, and all this has resulted in overexposure of personnel.

I tried to check it on my own sources, but did not find any evidence, and at my own peril made a statement that the accident had occurred. There was a great scandal, but he remained at the regional level. Gosatomnadzor very quickly worked, they immediately opened administrative cases, fined “Mayak.” “Rosatom” removed the director of this plant and subsequently even took the head of the whole plant in connection with this case, because it turned out that the plant management concealed this accident from the leadership of “Mayak.” The fact that he had an accident at the plant, the director of “Mayak “Learned from my publication.

“Mayak” is a huge production. They have a website , they describe all their activities. They do not have only an atomic station, and everything else is there. “Mayak” accepts for storage and processing of fuel, until last year it took only VVER-440 – these are former Soviet reactors. Since last year, it has adopted VVER-1000, and their dream is to accept all types of waste from around the world.

For example, until 2007, the technical condition of the equipment was very bad, we kept saying that everything there is old, will soon collapse. Then, with the arrival of Kirienko, they were very much modernized, they built a lot of things, but, unfortunately, the arrival of the last director Mikhail Pokhlebayev did not work. He pays great attention to the commercial side of the process and not very much – the nuclear radiation component.

I already lost count – one corruption scandal follows another. From the latest news: the company broke the contract with Mayak to build a cementing complex, this is part of the process they are dreaming about – to take all types of waste. At the same time, “Mayak” has not yet prepared the paper – that is, there is a repository, but no project documentation, and by the time we have to build it.

Waste of nuclear fuel by Mayak


“Rosatom”, from my point of view, was too carried away by the socialist competition, I believe that on Mayak people are victims, because they are absolutely not protected. The factories have implemented a special system, in which you can not report anything without entering into conflict with the management.

They have AKP, it is a system of wage surcharges. At the end of the month, each director distributes the bonuses – accordingly, if the employee has committed a violation or made a speech and said something about it, they do not give this extra charge. In fact, people are forced to remain silent to avoid losses in wages. This ugly system, which must be immediately eliminated, it gives rise to inequality, controversy and envy among people.

ACCIDENT, October 2017

About what happened the first time I heard from reports in the German press. At first, I missed the information on deaf ears, but as soon as she saw that “Rosatom” said, no, we all relaxed, and “Mayak” said we are fine, there was nothing – then I tensed and began to monitor the situation . I checked what was happening in Ozersk on “Mayak” – in the information field and in the local press was a deathly silence. Presumably, the accident occurred on 24-25 numbers, because in this time of “Mayak” had a new type of equipment.

Any abnormality has occurred at the radiochemical 235th plant. This is a very big production, there are several shops, this plant within the plant; it is likely that something happened during testing of the new equipment. At this time they tested new platforms, new containers, and adopted a new type of fuel. I must say that in these days of the accident at “Mayak” was 70 years old.

October 17 was published my interview with “Kommersant” newspaper, it was like a voice crying in the wilderness, hit a barrage of criticism at me. October 19 the director of “Mayak” suggests that the contamination we are normal, including ruthenium. The next day, the vice-governor acts and says that September 25 was nevertheless the release of ruthenium, but it was not enough, we have not measured, because we do not have a beta-counter.

The half-life of ruthenium-106 373.59 days. The pure ruthenium-106 is used in medicine in the treatment of eye cancers – as a reference source for verification of radiation monitoring devices – and in radioisotope thermo-electric generators. This element may be inhaled with the air inside the body and act together with contaminated food or water. Ruthenium accumulates in organs such as the liver, kidneys and spleen. Stochastic effects of radiation, ruthenium – regardless of ruthenium obtained by inhaling a dose of any of the exposed additional exposure sick. This can be a cancer of the immune system disorder or anything else.

I went to physicists consultants in different countries with a request to describe on what type of production could occur such a release. To understand this, you need to have huge knowledge and experience in the physics and chemistry of the process here. One from Ozersk sites appear anonymous comments on the release of 235-m factory. Further analysis leads me to the final conclusion that the accident occurred during the process of vitrification of high-level waste vitrification furnace on at the radiochemical plant №235. We were ready to make a statement, and it was at this time come Roshydromet data, which confirmed our version.

Morally me this story is given very heavy – on the one hand, I’m there, I feel part of the community of Ozersk, on the other hand – information about what happened can not hide! I have always believed and continue to believe that the reprocessing plant – this is a mistake, and that it should be closed, because it is impossible to recycle nuclear waste, which leads to their accumulation.

They say that they use the most modern methods – is wrong and leads to an increase in the amount of radioactive waste of all kinds. This waste is still discharging into the river Techa. 5 thousand. People in four villages on the banks of the Techa River continue to live and suffer, hurt, and expert advice we are not funded, and radiation have no ill.

For example, in 2007, during the slurry pipeline rupture was noticed and it was necessary to carry out some work on decontamination. What is the emission? The stove is something flashed, it left a large number of steam – at the turn of 10 people. It is not necessary to exaggerate their knowledge, but, nevertheless, of course, someone hid an accident. I think initially only knew about the incident and shift workers may be foreman. How to further develop the event, we do not know – one of them who lied – but we can say with certainty that the IAEA simply repeats of “Rosatom”, “Rosatom” repeats of “lighthouse”, well, “Lighthouse” is responsible, as it will.

Europeans are worried about the fact that the control system has demonstrated its absolute imperfection – I would even say, a nonentity – because ruthenium stood in small quantities, and the dangers it currently is not, but this type of ruthenium disintegrates after 370 days.

At the level of the European Parliament need to create a commission to investigate the incident – and the IAEA to investigate the reaction and to mislead the entire world about the accident. And if tomorrow will happen any more serious accident?

On the “Mayak” many types of industries that night I go to bed with the thought: let them all be well, let them work well, so that nothing never crashed.

Already made several attempts to create independent control, and the result is always “Rosatom” and “Lighthouse” turn it into a control addict.

When “Rosatom” in 2005, when he came to Kiriyenko, created a public council – at first everything was fine, we checked and wrote about all the violations. Now this public council sitting alone fans of our vigorous atom and praise each other as they are all well. They work in several ways, but most of their problems are reduced to the public on-site processing on the construction of new disposal facilities.

My greatest pain – the protection of the rights of victims: it is necessary to rewrite the law, but there is a blank wall, because the “Rosatom” believes he should be involved in what is happening now and what happened in the past – 60 years, 70 years ago – not his headache. They do not bear the financial responsibility for the state obligations under the previous accidents.

This time Rosigdromet measured the radiation, two weeks after the incident, and constantly tells us the story about how they have no beta-catchers. The fact that there are three types of activity – alpha, beta and gamma. Basically all modern dosimeters are adapted to the scale, because it is the most hard radiation, while beta and alpha shorter wavelengths, a different mechanism of action. For example, they are dangerous if inhaled or if entering the human body.

This feature always helps nuclear scientists to manipulate the information that if they take a gamma dosimeters and measurements where there is no range, and is, for example, beta is on the Techa, they say, ‘Look, here the perfect backdrop, you can swim, sunbathe, and so on. ‘

To prevent manipulation, it is necessary to solve the problem of the lack of public scrutiny, instead of looking for ways on how to get a better hide it. Maybe it cost to equip the population dosimeters – and those that measure alpha, beta and gamma.

Several years passed virtually unnoticed by the normative act, which shifted the responsibility for the evacuation of the population and ensuring special protection means on the population itself.

Nuclear workers are very cunning – it’s quite a narrow circle of people, they want to make, but at the same time realize that if they perebdyat the safety measures, it will cause concern residents, so it is much more favorable to the residents “put to sleep” as a boa constrictor rabbit hypnotized than take are any the measures.

In Ozersk every resident should know that you need to take in case of an accident where to go. Several years ago, Green Pease suggested something similar to organize for residents living near such plants – tell us where to evacuate and what to do. The ministry sent a request, they sent a response, which is a state secret.

SITUATION incidence of cancer

Residents like Ozersk and the surrounding communities are on the so-called scientific control – there Ozersk Institute of Biophysics, who has been studying the “Mayak” workers’ health. The same institute has in Chelyabinsk, and I have a complaint and that, and another. Research they are doing, and specific results for the protection of their rights, we do not see.

Indeed there is statistical evidence that the level of various diseases increased, although the issue is often a matter of debate, Ozersk compared with other localities of Russia, in which too many are ill. We can not compete who have more cases of cancer, we or Chelyabinsk – they have the disease on its cause, we have – on their own.

If we take the circle of his acquaintances, friends and immediate family, every family can always find 2-3 cancers, and it is early death.

If we talk about people I defended – they have every family of 1-2 cases of cancer, or any disease or sick children are born. In my own family had died of cancer grandmother, who worked on “Mayak”, died of cancer father, step-sister died of cancer caused by exposure to radiation, my first in-law died of breast cancer, father in law died of brain cancer – that is, it is within the same full five-member family. I think it very much.

One day I was asked to take a few pictures of ordinary life in Ozersk, and on one of the pictures was a cemetery. In our town always digging graves in advance, in the photo was the insane amount of excavated graves. The man asked me, why do you have so many of them? I say: “We know how many dead, so many swarm.” “How did you know how many die? the grave is usually prepared when a person has died. ” And then, when it became already think about it, I realized that it really is true – it is not normal that they simply can not cope and you have to dig in advance. So, if we advance to dig up graves, then it must be so. How do we know it is normal?










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