St. Füglister "The Secret Nuclear Accident at Kyshtym / Mayak"
The first nuclear reactor of the Sowjet Union (SU) started operations in 1948 In the Mayak/Kyshtym complex at the Eastern side of the Ural mountain range. It was used for the production of plutonium that was meant to fuel the first Soviet plutonium-based atomic bomb. In 1949, the first batch of plutonium from Mayak was presented to Stalin and shortly thereafter the first Soviet nuclear bomb was detonated. Not even ten years later, a serious accident happened and the number of deaths from it remains unknown.
The «Kyshtym catastrophe» of 1957 is frequently considered as one in a series of civil nuclear accidents. However, this is not quite correct, as contrary to other nuclear accidents, such as those of Three Mile Island or Fukushima, neither the complexity of the technology nor an external factor triggered the catastrophe. Rather the fatal explosion in one of the plutonium tanks was caused by ignorance and deepest human disregard. Technical safety, protection of human life and the environment, had been unconditionally sacrificed in the SU by the race to nuclear rearmament.
In principle, this practice did not differ from the one other nuclear powers, however in its dimension was way more drastic. Until today, Russia refuses to recognize survivors and their families as victims and to honor their claims.
The lack of complete workup of such events can lead to the reintroduction of human-despising methods in the hands of authoritarian regimes. The critique of both the civil and military use of nuclear energy therefore remains an important and urgent task.