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Radioactive Leak Threat in Russia as Flood Heads for Uranium Mines

Russian environmentalists are sounding the alarm about a radioactive leak threat as floodwaters approach a uranium mine in the region of Kurgan in Russia's Urals mountains.


The Russian Urals region and neighboring northern Kazakhstan have suffered the worst flooding in 80 years amid heavy rainfall exacerbated by large snowfalls, which are melting rapidly as a result of higher-than-usual temperatures this spring. Authorities have evacuated tens of thousands of residents from Kurgan and Orenburg in recent weeks as floodwaters rise.


Newsweek has contacted Russia's Foreign Ministry for comment by email.


Search-and-rescue teams use an inflatable boat after the dam burst in Orsk, Russia, on April 19, 2024. Russian environmentalists are sounding the alarm about a radioactive leak threat as floodwaters head toward a uranium mine in the region of Kurgan in Russia's Urals mountains
Search-and-rescue teams use an inflatable boat after the dam burst in Orsk, Russia, on April 19, 2024. Russian environmentalists are sounding the alarm about a radioactive leak threat as floodwaters head toward a uranium mine in the region of Kurgan in Russia's Urals mountains. RUSLAN RYKUNOV/ANADOLU/GETTY IMAGES

Agentstvo, a Russian investigative site launched in 2021, reported Sunday that the Dobrovolnoye uranium mine, which is located in the village of Ukrainskoye in Kurgan's Zverinogolovsky district, has been listed by local authorities as being in the flood zone. The mine is estimated to hold approximately 7,077 tons of uranium at a grade value ranging from 0.01 percent to 0.05 percent uranium, according to NS Energy Business.


Environmentalists told Agentstvo that they fear the nearby Tobol River could become contaminated with uranium.


Sergei Eremin is the head of regional environmental organization Foundation for Public Control Over the State of the Environment and the Well-Being of the Population. He said that a video filmed by a resident indicates that an old well "that had been leaking [uranium] for 35 years" could already be under water.


Andrei Ozharovsky, an expert in the Radioactive Waste Safety program of the Russian Social-Ecological Union, told the investigative site that a leak of uranium from the Dobrovolnoye mine will lead to an increase in the concentration of uranium salts in the Tobol River, and this may contaminate drinking water for residents.


Agentstvo said that environmental activists in Kurgan have for years been urging authorities to ban uranium mining in the area. They fear that the radioactive solution would contaminate groundwater and the Tobol River.


On April 17, local authorities told Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti that the water level in the Tobol River had surpassed the "dangerous level" mark, rising by 123 centimeters (4 feet) in the previous 24 hours. By then, more than 660 residential houses in Kurgan were flooded.


"This isn't just a flood, it's a genuine threat!" Kurgan governor Vadim Shumkov said on Telegram last week. "Therefore, take children, elderly people, relatives with limited mobility and neighbors to a temporary shelter or to friends and acquaintances. Collect documents and valuables."


Original Article: Newsweek.com


Isabel van Brugen is a Newsweek Reporter based in Kuala Lumpur. Her focus is reporting on the Russia-Ukraine war. Isabel joined Newsweek in 2021 and had previously worked with news outlets including the Daily Express, The Times, Harper's BAZAAR, and Grazia. She has an M.A. in Newspaper Journalism at City, University of London, and a B.A. in Russian language at Queen Mary, University of London. Languages: English, Russian

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