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Lake Karachay – The Most Toxic and Polluted Place on Earth

In this article, we will look into Lake Karachay – the Most Toxic and Polluted Place on Earth. In several Northwestern Turkic languages, the name karachay means “black water” or “black creek”. Lake Karachay was a small lake in the southern Ural Mountains in the Central Asia. It was once used as a nuclear waste storage facility but now it is filled with hollow concrete and acts as a permanent radioactive waste storage facility. This lake has become so hazardous that it is now almost impossible to develop any kind of ecosystem here. We will see some more important points about this lake in below section.

Lake Karachay - the Most Toxic and Polluted Place on Earth

Lake Karachay – The Most Toxic and Polluted Place on Earth

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  • It has been described as the “most polluted spot on Earth” by the Worldwatch Institute.
  • Lake Karachay was used as the dumping ground of Nuclear waste from the Mayak Plant.
  • The Mayak plant was the first reactor used to create Plutonium for the Soviet Atomic Bomb Project. This was kept as a secret by the government till 1990.
  • When Russian president Boris Yeltsin signed a 1992 decree opening the area, Western scientists were able to gain access.
  • A nuclear reactor needs coolant to remove the excess heat from the reactor’s core. The nearest Lake Karachay was too small to provide the coolant so it has been decided to use the coolant from Lake Kyzyltash and Lake Karachay will be used as the dumping ground.
  • The Lake toxicity is as comparable as the Chernobyl Disaster , the worst nuclear accident in human history.
  • Initially the plan was to store radioactive waste in the underground storage facility but later on Lake Karachay was chosen for the storage until the hot radioactive waste gets cooled off. Then it can be moved to underground storage vats. But this proved impossible due to high radioactive toxicity. The lake was used for this purpose until the Kyshtym Disaster in 1957, in which the underground vats exploded due to a faulty cooling system.
  • After the explosion, the administration took greater caution and spread the dumping grounds to several areas, including Lake Karachay. More on wikipedia.
  • The sediment of the lake bed is estimated to be composed entirely of high level radioactive pollutants atleast upto a depth of 11 feet.
  • The lake started to dry up in early 1960s and then a drought in 1968 exposed the ground sediments to the strong wind which carried it over to nearby areas, irradiating about half a million people.
  • Radiation Sickness is common among the people living in nearby areas. Cancer is causing more fatality among the workers.
  • Although the lake is filled with 10,000 hollow concrete which stops it from shifting away but this did not stopped the problem of water pollution. The underground water flowing from the lake at a rate of around 80m per year is causing a long lasting pollution problem.
  • The level of radioactivity measured in the lake is around 4.44 exabecquerels (EBq) over less than one bed square mile of water. This is almost comparable to the level found near the large surface area of Chernobyl Disaster site.
  • According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the lake is so polluted that its waters can kill a human being within an hour. More about Lake Karachay Pollution.
  • As of now, there is no sign of cleanup. Experts warned if this radioactive pollution continued, the radiation could eventually reach the Techa river and then the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Currently the entire area is sealed down and completely cut off from the outside world.

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