During its 30 years of operation, the mining and chemical company Combine at Zheleznogorsk discharged its cooling water contaminated with radioactive wastes directly into the Yenisei River. At least 64,000 people living in the town of Bolshoi Balchug, located immediately downstream from the plant, were at risk of exposure to radionuclides, including plutonium-239, cesium-136, and strontium-90.
The main goal of the project was to improve radiation situation in the riverbank zone located near Bolshoi Balchug. Specialists from Blacksmith and the Citizens` Center on Nuclear Non-Proliferation conducted an independent radiological survey of the river bank (1300 m) in Bolshoi Balchug community and mapped radioactive hotspots. “Hot” locations were plotted on a topographic map.
The project informed the population and authorities of Krasnoyarsk region about radiation pollution of the territory in Bolshoi Balchug. The survey results were brought to the attention of local authorities and appropriate controlling units. 300 kms along the river were found to be declared an environmental disaster zone, after soil and sediment samples collected from the area showed radiation levels hundreds of times higher than permissible levels.
As a result, the company conducted remediation of the polluted areas. All “hot” particles found together with surrounding soil were taken from the soil and placed into a lead container. In November 2006, the contaminated material was handed over to a specialized organization Quant Ltd for proper disposal.