Overview of contamination from US and Russian nuclear complexes Page: 3 of 25
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OVERVIEW OF CONTAMINATION FROM U.S.
AND RUSSIAN NUCLEAR COMPLEXES
D. J. Bradley
Pacific Northwest Laboratory
P.O. Box 999
Richland, WA 99352
Over the last 50 years, Russia and the United States have developed the largest nuclear
weapons complexes in the world. In doing so, they have-also created the world's largest
inventories of radioactive materials. Although parts of these inventories have decayed
to insignificant levels (stored in engineered systems such as tanks, or placed into a waste
form such as glass), significant amounts have been released to the environment. In both
countries, the primary contaminated areas are located at or near facilities that reprocessed
fuel from weapons materials production reactors. In the United States, these locations
are the Hanford, Savannah River, and Oak Ridge sites. In Russia, the corresponding
sites are Mayak (near the city of Ozersk, formerly Chelyabinsk-65), Tomsk-7 (now called
Seversk), and Krasnoyarsk-26 (now called Zheleznogorsk), all of which are located in
Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel generates waste streams from low to high radio-
activity levels as a result of dissolving the fuel and extracting uranium and plutonium to
make new fuel or for defense purposes. Contamination of the environment from reproc-
essing operations, due to off-normal events or planned discharges, has led to the majority
of contamination in both of our countries. The contamination at the three Russian prod-
uction reactor and fuel reprocessing sites dwarfs all other contamination problems in
Russia, as well as anywhere else in the world. Probably the primary example of this is
the extent of radioactive waste disposal by injection into wells at depths from 300 to
1,000 meters at the Tomsk-7, Krasnoyarsk-26, and Dimitrovgrad sites. Currently, it is
believed that up to 1.6 billion curies exist underground at the Tomsk-7 and
Krasnoyarsk-26 sites, and waste injection is still ongoing. This is in addition to the sev-
eral hundred million curies that have been discharged to surface waters at the Mayak and
Tomsk-7 sites. Investigations are now being started to understand contaminant migration
and potential human and environmental impacts from well-injection disposal activities.
This paper briefly compares the United States and Russian weapons complexes and
provides a perspective on the releases of radioactivity to the environment in both
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Bradley, D.J. Overview of contamination from US and Russian nuclear complexes, article, June 1, 1995; Richland, Washington. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc627734/m1/3/: accessed December 11, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.