In 1957, the third largest nuclear disaster in the world occurred at Mayak, this being a fuel reprocessing plant with rather lax safety precautions. As a result of a storage tank failure, the contents exploded, spreading eight hundred kilometers of contamination across the Eastern Urals.

To reduce the spread of contamination, soil filled with heavy metals and radioactivity was excavated and stored in fenced enclosures. These pits are filled not simply with earth, but with contaminated crops. Inevitably, the safety precautions have been few. Thus, waste seeps into the earth itself, poisoning crops, poisoning grass, and even poisoning the rusting Soviet-era signs erected beside contaminated rivers and streams.

With seventy-six million estimated tons of waste buried in the Eastern Urals Trace Zone, the largest and hottest necropolis in the world is comprised of these slow-decaying graveyards.


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