Mailuu Suu Radioactive Tailings Still Risky
Interview with Blacksmith Institute Coordinator in Kyrgyzstan
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The town of Mailuu Suu has been recognized by world experts including Blacksmith Institute as one of the top ten radioactive contaminated areas of the world. More than 25,000 residents in Mailuu Suu are exposed daily to dangerous levels of radiation from the radioactive waste dumps collected around town. The first range of the Soviet atomic bombs has been developed using Mailuu Suu uranium during the 1940's and 1950's. requested an interview with one of the Blacksmith Institute coordinators in the former Soviet block, Vladimir Kuznetsov who manages field operations in Mailuu Suu.

What's the history of Blacksmith project "Mailuu Suu" in Kyrgyzstan?

Vladimir Kuznetsov -- The problem of Mailuu-Suu region has been partially (along with the other regions) raised in our first micro-project in 2007 which identified contamination of the water supply source in the Mailuu Suu.

The practical result of the previous project in this area contributed to the cessation of illegal excavation of contaminated waste parts for metal trade business with Chinese smugglers.

What's the current assessment of situation with radioactive dumps in Mailuu Suu?

Radioactive tailings and small terraces (that contain pulp with a high percentage of non-complete raised uranium due to outdated technologies of 1950-60's) continue to pose a risk as there is massive inrush and infiltration through the primitively designed tailings bed (contaminating groundwater and surface water further to the water pipeline system). Increased frequency of landslides and earthquakes for the last five years and rising groundwater level resulted further contamination.

In addition to Blacksmith, there are OSCE and IMF research projects in Kyrgyzstan. Does Blacksmith interacts with them on Mailuu Suu and what impact these both have on improving the situation?

Unfortunately, all three groups have been working in Mailuu-Suu (World Bank, OSCE, Blacksmith Institute) on their own time frame and with different environmental proposals. There is no agreed-upon cooperation as well as no OSCE regional office in Mayluu Suu.

Various world and Kyrgyz media outlets report that there is a dangerous possibility that there are contaminated areas beyond the Kyrgyz border which are Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. These radioactive dumps may find its way into the Naryn river. Is there any action by the Kyrgyz Government on securing waste dumps in Mailuu Suu?

Inrush is possible into the Mailuu-Suu river and poses a risk to local population of the Fegrana Valley.

An agreement was signed between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in 2003 but there was no real activity with co-financing from Uzbekistan. The relations of these two states are quite complex (disputes with water resources and boundary territories). The relations between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (permanent frontier disputes) are even worse. It is unlikely that solution at the government level would be created in the near future between these states (although it is possible between groups of independent experts and NGOs).

The Government of Kyrgyzstan is making separate efforts for prevention of landslides (supported by a grant from Germany in 2006), partial stabilization of the shores of the river Mailuu-Suu, reburial of small piles to the tailing-storehouse number 6, a partial reburial from storehouse 3 to 6, and construction of the mud dams along the river (with support of the World Bank).

The World Bank reports US$ 6 or 9 million was provided to Kyrgyzstan in 2004 but UNDP roughly estimates 42 million is needed in order to stabilize waste sites especially in Mailuu Suu. What is Blacksmith's estimate and what measures should be taken for effective funds use in Kyrgyzstan?

UNDP supported several geology studies also in the region of Mailuu-Suu from 1997 to 2003. Three research works were published. Our project aims at health protection of vulnerable populations.

At the same time, current members of Blacksmith Institute Project 2008-09 (Hadzhamberdiev, Tuhvatshin, Damuladzhanov) participated as independent consultants at the round table discussion of the World Bank Project (2005 seminar in Mailuu-Suu and in Bishkek in 2007). World Bank hasn't concentrated on human health issues in the region. We have noted rejection by independent experts of the Research Institute of Geology on river banks stabilization
The coordination actions are required from all foundations on these problems.

Blacksmith institute reports Mailuu Suu town residents have been exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive pollution for quite a long time. NPR radio reported a shocking number of cases with cancer, birth defects, food and water contamination. There are 25,000 residents in Mailuu Suu. Is there any progress in minimizing the population exposure?

The first generation of children - about 3,000 (from 1990 to 2008 the number of residents in the city has gone down by half due to migration) were exposed to other sources of radiation. Thus the sources of exposure now are different than while plant was in operation. Composition of residents differs as well.

Data on cancer growth in Mailuu Suu had been repeated by various authors over the years. Particular research has been done in the 1970's and 1980's and published by Oncology Research Institute of the Kyrgyz Republic in the 1990's. Data for the level of uranium in surface waters vary greatly from one author to another (perhaps because of the complex conditions of water and variable infiltration).

Modern sources of population exposure are measured in our research work:

a) the content of uranium in tap water, vegetables and meat products;
b) the emanation of radon in indoor; and
c) inside-rooms level of exposure from the walls.

According to the latest findings of human ecology, daily radiation targets the immune system, genetic apparatus and thyroid gland. The effects are revealed in several types of diseases; some cancer cases and developmental defects appear after 10 to 20 years and some problems appear in the next generations. Therefore, we analyzed illness rate of selected environmental districts and explored the fundamental indicators of human health (immunity and function of the thyroid gland).

Nominally there are 22,000 residents in Mailuu Suu but the actual number is 16,000 and about 5,000 in the villages down the valley.
Blakcksmith tries to minimize radiation exposure within the framework of our project:

1) the full registration of exposure sources (via drinking water, radon emanation, radon is a radioactive gas occasionally penetrating from underground structures and from the walls of native stone);
2) modern basic health markers among children (cellular and protein immunity, the stability of membrane structures, function of the thyroid gland, the indicators of genomic material damage); and
3) prevention -- installation of double water filters for school water pipelines, special protective plaster in schools and private houses, the resettlement of some individuals, water pipes repair.

Does Blacksmith have a permanent working group or office in Kyrgyzstan? How does the Kyrgyz government agencies cooperate with the institute? Is it effective?

In fact, the function of the representative office fulfills a group of project executors.

The project is closely linked to government offices of the Kyrgyz Republic -- Medical Academy Department of Pathological Physiology and Central Research Institute laboratory, and the Scientific Council of Health Ministry -- chairman of the Council is Prof. R. Tuhvatshin and the Center of Sanitary inspectors (Director Mambetov), City Department of Education (M. Karasheva), and Territorial Hospital (Chief Physician J. Kenzhebaev, Head of Laboratory N. Shaydullina).

2009/06/12 오전 7:04
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