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Health Phys. 2012 Jan;102(1):25-38. doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e318228159a.

Reevaluation of waterborne releases of radioactive materials from the Mayak Production Association into the Techa River in 1949-1951.

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Urals Research Center for Radiation Medicine, Chelyabinsk, Russian Federation.


The Mayak Production Association was the first site for the production of weapons-grade plutonium in Russia. Early operations led to the waterborne release of radioactive materials into the small Techa River. Residents living downstream used river water for drinking and other purposes. The releases and subsequent flooding resulted in deposition of sediments along the shoreline and on floodplain soil. Primary routes of exposure were external dose from the deposited sediments and ingestion of 90Sr and other radionuclides. Study of the Techa River Cohort has revealed an increased incidence of leukemia and solid cancers. Epidemiologic studies are supported by extensive dose-reconstruction activities that have led to various versions of a Techa River Dosimetry System (TRDS). The correctness of the TRDS has been challenged by the allegation that releases of short-lived radionuclides were much larger than those used in the TRDS. Although the dosimetry system depends more upon measurements of 90Sr in humans and additional measurements of radionuclides and of exposure rates in the environment, a major activity has been undertaken to define more precisely the time-dependent rates of release and their radionuclide composition. The major releases occurred during 1950-1951 in the form of routine releases and major accidental releases. The reevaluated amount of total release is 114 PBq, about half of which was from accidents that occurred in late 1951. The time-dependent composition of the radionuclides released has also been reevaluated. The improved understanding presented in this paper is possible because of access to many documents not previously available.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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