Radioactive elements are harmful to humans, animals, plants, and the environment equally, yet many people still don’t realise that radioactive pollution is a worldwide danger. Every day we are exposed to some amount of radiation, but generally not harmful. But when a site becomes completely nuclear, no matter how thoroughly the location is cleaned, the remaining radiation can still affect the environment for hundreds of years. Down below we are listing ten of the most radioactive places on Earth.
10. Church Rock uranium mill, USA
In 1979, a spill happened because one of the dams holding the United Nuclear Corporation’s disposal ponds at bay cracked at the Church Rock uranium mill in New Mexico. The accident sent 1,100 tons of uranium mine tailings and 94 million gallons of effluent into the Puerco River, spreading contamination some 50 miles downstream, releasing three times more radiation than the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
9. The Hanford Site, Washington, USA
The Hanford Site in Washington was used for manufacturing plutonium for the first nuclear bomb and Fat Man that was used at Nagasaki. During the Cold War, it was supplying plutonium for most of America’s 60,000 nuclear weapons. Although decommissioned, it still holds two-thirds of the volume of the country’s high-level radioactive waste. The majority of the production waste has been buried underground but large areas of groundwater have since become defiled.
8. Mayak, Russia
The industrial complex in Mayak was one of Russia’s main nuclear plants for plutonium production and was also the site of one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents. The International Nuclear Event Scale has categorized it as a Level 6 disaster officially making it the third worst nuclear accident ever. The 1975 explosion released 100 tons plus of radioactive waste and large amounts of nuclear material over a large area. Beginning in the 1950s, the plant’s waste was secretly dumped in the surrounding area and into Lake Karachay. All of this was kept under wraps until the 1980s.
7. The Somalian Coast
Reportedly, the Italian criminal organization the ‘Ndrangheta, have been using the Somalian coast for illegal dumping and nuclear waste and other toxic materials for years. The unprotected soils and waters consist of about 600 barrels of toxic and nuclear waste as well as nuclear hospital waste. The United Nations Environment Program assumes that the rusting barrels of waste that washed up on the Somalian coastline during the 2004 Tsunami was dumped as far back as the 1990s.
6. Sellafield, United Kingdom
Sellafield was originally a plutonium production facility for nuclear bombs, also used to produce weapons-grade nuclear material for the UK’s nuclear weapon program during the Cold War. Located on the coast of the Irish Sea, this plant releases some 8 million litres of contaminated waste into the sea on a daily basis, making the Irish Sea the most radioactive sea in the world. A small number of nuclear accidents have occurred at the plant, and around two-thirds of the buildings are now classified as nuclear waste.
5. The Siberian Chemical Combine, Seversk, Russia
The Siberian Chemical Combine is a nuclear production facility and was one of the production facilities for fissile weapon-grade nuclear products for the Soviet Nuclear weapon program. The chemical facility contains over four decades worth of nuclear waste. The contamination has spread by wind and rain and underground storage has the potential to leak into groundwater. Today it is a major site for the storage and handling of weapons-grade nuclear materials also supplies low-enriched uranium fuel needs of Russia and enriches reprocessed uranium for foreign customers.
4. Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan
One of the most polluted sites on Earth, the radiation in Mailuu-Suu doesn’t come from any nuclear bombs or power plants. The area was a rich Uranium source, home to a uranium mining and processing facility. During the Cold War, a large mining operation was set up by the Soviet Union and large amounts of Uranium ore were dug from the area. Now it’s left with 36 dumps of uranium waste of over 1.96 million cubic meters. The area is prone to seismic activity and any disruption of the containment could expose the material or fall into rivers.
3. The Polygon, Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan
Before becoming a part of modern-day Kazakhstan, the Polygon was used by the Soviet Union as one of their main nuclear weapon testing sites during the Cold War. Despite the fact that 700,000 people lived in the area, it is thought that around 450 nuclear tests occurred here between 1949 and 1989. It is estimated that 200,000 people have had their health directly affected by the radiation. Until the facility closed in 1991, the impact of the radiation was kept under wraps by the Soviets.
2. Chernobyl, Pripyat, Ukraine
In April 1986, one of the world’s worst and most infamous catastrophic nuclear power plant accidents took place. This disaster happened during a late-night safety test at the plant that was meant to simulate a station blackout power-failure. Instead, the plant’s real safety systems were deactivated causing a massive steam explosion and open-air graphite fire, releasing 100 times more radiation than the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs. It is estimated that over a million people were exposed to radiation with 4 to 93 thousand deaths as a result.
1. Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant, Japan
In 2011, a 9.91 magnitude earthquake caused a tsunami in Japan that destroyed homes and lives and also caused the worst nuclear power plant disaster since Chernobyl. The tragic incident caused the meltdown of three of the six reactors, leaking radiation as well as spillovers of the plant’s contaminated wastewater into the surrounding area and the sea. The radioactive material has been detected as far as 200 miles from the plant. Though the nuclear plant was completely shut down, it is thought that it will take four decades to decommission the power plant completely.
Have you been to any of these places? Would you like to visit one of them? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below.