The most deadly nuclear meltdown in history happened in the USSR, known as the Chernobyl disaster. However, this was not the only nuclear accident that happened in the former soviet union territories. Plenty of other disasters had occurred but had been kept a secret from the general public. One particular installation, only known as City 40 was the first Soviet plutonium production complex and the site of three massive nuclear incidents that were a carefully kept secret.
Up until the ‘90s city-40 was not placed anywhere on the maps and there were no road signs leading to the place, meaning that according to official records; the city did not exist.
However, despite the complete isolation from the rest of the world, the inhabitants of the city are not keen on leaving the closed-off haven. Majority of the residents do not even consider the possibility.
Such is the paradox of closed cities, a concept initiated by the dictatorial administration of Stalin but still remains in the modern world. As of 2001, the Russian government acknowledged the existence of 42 closed cities, however, it is estimated there are at least 15 more cities yet to be disclosed.
City-40- was started in 1945 when 40,000 prisoners taken from 12 labor camps together with nuclear scientists were deployed to begin construction of underground nuclear facilities. The Russian convicts had agreed to work in the city in exchange for a lesser sentence. The felons were given the option of either 25 years of hard labor in Siberia or 5 years underground in city-40.
The first nuclear reactor was build 18 months later and a few other facilities built around the area. The area was later renamed to Orzak.
The construction workers were however not very lucky. They didn’t know that they were signing up for a death sentence. The massive levels of radiation they were exposed to meant that none of them would live beyond five years.
The city which is now called Ozersk was the birthplace of the Soviet Nuclear weapons program and is now known as the most contaminated places on earth. This, however, doesn’t scare the thousands of residents who continue living in the city despite the obvious health hazards.
The city is surrounded by barbed wire and is monitored by armed guards who are stationed to protect the nearby Mayak nuclear factory.
Despite the atrocious radiation levels, people living in the closed city gets more benefits that fellow citizens from the Soviet Union. Well-paying jobs, good education, proper housing, and abundant food are among the things that residents in the Russian Nuclear reserve can boast of.
More than three generations since it was built, the closed cities are as dangerous as they are secretive. The residents, however, feel like they are being taken care of
Between 1945 and 1957, the Mayak plant dumped massive amounts of radioactive wastes into the area. The material polluted the nearby river Techna and even reached the Arctic ocean. Scientists estimate that the sum of radionuclide contamination is 2-3 times the release from the explosions during the Chernobyl accident.
In 1957, an improperly stored underground tank of liquid waste exploded and contaminated thousands of hectares of land now referred to as the Eastern Ural Radioactive Trace (EURT). Since then, thousands have died of radiation-induced cancer while some were diagnosed with chronic radiation syndrome. It is estimated that 470,000 people were exposed to radiation during the period.
Despite massive death tolls, the Soviet government strongly denied it happened, working around the clock to cover it up quietly. However, since the accident, dumping of nuclear waste in the area has ceased.
The largely contaminated city is often referred to as the “graveyard of the earth” yet residents are not willing to relocate to other safer areas.