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Nuclear Pollution in the Caspian Sea: Introduction of several studies


By Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD Int. Law



Nuclear pollution is one of the less known and rarely discussed dimensions of the serious pollution problems in the Caspian Sea.  At the same time, the radioactive contamination is one of the most damaging and dangerous types of pollution in the world.  The nuclear activities of the coastal states, implications of the former nuclear explosions, the remnants of the nuclear tests, the nuclear wastes (which will be radioactive for thousands of years) and finally the nuclear side of oil exploration and exploitation and transportation (especially by pipelines) are the sources of nuclear danger in the Caspian Sea.


The nuclear pollution is not in the same level all over the Caspian Sea.  It is different from the viewpoints of sources and types of dangers.  But if we take into consideration that the Caspian Sea, as the greatest lake in the world, is not connected through natural channels to the high seas, and at the same time, a strange wind current (there are other strange characteristics in the Caspian Sea like its rising and falling levels that is still subject to controversy) keeps steering the water inside the lake like a giant spoon, then the general dangers of the nuclear pollution for all coastal states, even those who have smallest role in the nuclear contamination of the Caspian Sea (like Iran) become more evident.  Here I have tried to present the interesting parts of several studies in the field of nuclear pollution in the Caspian Sea and its surrounding states.  Later I will refer to the international legal instruments that can be a base for the arrangements to combat this kink of pollution in the Caspian Sea, even without determination of the legal regime of the Caspian Sea as a whole.


Discussing the effects of the nuclear pollution and exposure to dangerous levels of radiation of radioactive materials on the human beings and societies is out of the scope of present writing.   However, it is in order to mention a few words here:  A group of scientists headed by Professor Farrokh Djahanguiri, from Colorado School of Mines, have made a good research ( about "Radioactive Pollution on the Apsheron Peninsula and Caspian Sea," which I am going to refer to its results later, but here, I would like to do the same thing that they have done: i.e. quoting the effects of researches related to exposure to radioactive materials conducted in the USA:

"Effects of exposure of the human body to radium is studied by health research organizations in the United States and radium is labeled a "bone seeker" because of the bone's affinity and ability to retain nuclides of that element.  Bone disorders resulting from the intake of radium were documented early in the century when doctors discovered that women hired to paint luminous watch and clock dials had an unusually high incidence of bone sarcomas - a condition called osteonecrosis or "bone death".

The sensitivity of the lungs to the energy emitted by inhaled radionuclides has been documented in studies showing high incidences of lung cancer among miners of uranium-bearing ores, who became exposed to airborne particulates and concentrations of radon-gas. Most recent studies have linked increasing incidences of lung cancer to inhalation of radon, which accumulates in homes built over radon-emitting soils.
With regard to the exposure pathway through which radioactive materials may be ingested, one study estimated the risk associated with a lifetime intake of drinking water containing one Pico curie per liter of radium-226 to be ten excess fatalities per 1 million members of the population. Another study relates increased incidences of leukemia to certain counties in Florida where drinking water contains elevated levels of radium."

            What are the sources of nuclear pollution in the Caspian Sea?

It is surprising to say that one of the sources of nuclear pollution in the Caspian Sea is the Caspian Sea per se. Boris Gulubov ( reports: 

"In addition to man-made sources of radiation, the Caspian ecosystem collects and stores high levels of natural radioactive nuclides. Caspian waters, bottom sediments, and living organisms contain levels of uranium five to seven times higher than those in other seas, due mostly to the complex migration patterns of naturally occurring radioactive nuclides. Mollusk fossils from millions of years ago have been found to contain much more uranium than those of their modern descendants. Because the Caspian Basin does not drain into other bodies of water, it operates as a natural precipitation tank for a significant mass of naturally occurring radioactive elements, which, once they reach the sea, have no outlet. Some of these radioactive nuclides originated in aboveground rock formations such as the granite in the nearby Caucasus, Elburz and Ural mountain ranges that are gradually eroding. Another source of nuclides includes undersea sedimentary rocks - the same strata that contain oil and gas."


But the main source of nuclear contamination danger is not nature.  The nature has its own defensive systems as Gulubov has explained in his article.  The past and present activities of coastal countries are the main sources of concern. R.B.  Flay in his article "Trans-boundary Environmental Issues in the Former Soviet Union", dated 1998 has written:

"For reasons known to all of us, the Soviet Union (SU) developed a large nuclear industry for both military and energy purposes.  While prior to 1991 this wide network of nuclear facilities was regulated by Moscow, the fact that many of the facilities lie outside of Russia is a major problem today given both the environmental and the military threat of these materials.  In Russia alone there are 320 cities and 1548 other locations used to store radioactive material.  In Ukraine approximately 100,000 small nuclear facilities exist and there are 11,000 in Moldova.  Geologists in Kazakhstan have found about 80 million tons of radioactive waste and since the mid 1960's the Atyrau oblast has been the test site for some 17 nuclear tests. The incident of reactor four at Chernobyl in 1986 in Ukraine graphically displays the severity of this issue.  Ukrainian government officials put the direct death toll of the accident at 8,000 with another 12,000 individuals being badly irradiated.  Other sources place the expected death toll from cancer as a result of the accident at up to 100,000.  In Ukraine, nearly 17 million acres of land was contaminated by the cesium 137 fallout, from the reactor and similar exposures were incurred by Belarus and Norway."


The role of Russians in the nuclear pollution of the Caspian Sea is substantial.  I have only singled out a few cases as an example for this report.  There is a great body of studies on the various aspects of nuclear pollution caused by the Russians. According to "Albion Monitor March 30, 1996 (

"For more than three decades, the Soviet Union and now Russia secretly pumped billions of gallons of atomic waste directly into the earth and, according to Russian scientists, the practice continues today.

The scientists said that Moscow had injected about half of all the nuclear waste it ever produced into the ground at three widely dispersed sites, all thoroughly wet and all near major rivers. The three sites are at Dimitrovgrad near the Volga River, Tomsk near the Ob River, and Krasnoyarsk on the Yenisei River. The Volga flows into the Caspian Sea and the Ob and Yenisei flow into the Arctic Ocean.

The injections violate the accepted rules of nuclear waste disposal, which require it to be isolated in impermeable containers for thousands of years. The Russian scientists claim the practice is safe because the wastes have been injected under layers of shale and clay, which in theory cut them off from the Earth's surface.

But the wastes at one site already have leaked beyond the expected range and "spread a great distance," the Russians said. They did not say whether the distance was meters or kilometers or whether the poisons had reached the surface.

The amount of radioactivity injected by the Russians is up to three billion curies. By comparison, the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant released about 50 million curies of radiation, mostly in short-lived isotopes that decayed in a few months. The accident at Three Mile Island discharged about 50 curies. The injected wastes include cesium-137, with a half life of 30 years, and strontium-90, with a half life of 28 years and a bad reputation because it binds readily with human bones...

At worst, it might leak to the surface and produce regional calamities in Russia and areas downstream along the rivers. If the radioactivity spreads through the world's oceans, experts say, it might prompt a global rise in birth defects and cancer death."



What about Azerbaijan?


Azerbaijan and certain parts of Kazakhstan, due to the previous activities (military and civilian) of the former Soviet Union and also because of the oil exploration, and exploitation activities are serious sources of nuclear pollution.  The acute part of pollution by nuclear substances is regarding the nuclear wastes that large quantities of them are kept under sub-standard conditions.   

N. Majidoya, in parts of his article titled:  "There's no room...", Zerkalo [in Azeri],     dated 25 of Mar. 2000, reports:

"The main radioactive waste storage facility in Azerbaijan is the Izotop Industrial Complex, located 30km from Baku.  Izotop was constructed in the 1950s and holds 510 tanks of radioactive waste in 10 storage tanks designed to hold only low-level radioactive waste.  However, as of March 2000, nine of the 10 tanks were full and, in many cases, the level of radiation is above 1,000 roentgens. Data collected before 1988 suggest that approximately 350 organizations have a total of 950 radiation sources in their possession.  These organizations include military facilities, research institutes, production plants and health services-related enterprises. Spent radioactive sources from these organizations never reached the Izotop storage facility.  Instead they are spread throughout the Baku region.  Out of 157 radioactive contamination sites discovered in 1988 as a result of a special inspection in the Baku region, only 31 had been cleaned as of early 1996.  Many of these radioactive sources were left behind by the chemical weapons divisions stationed in Baku, Lenkoran, Gyandzha and Nakhichevan during the Soviet period. Although Azerbaijan does not have any nuclear reactors, research facilities, or uranium mines, the Baku newspaper Zerkalo reports that the level of radiation emissions in the country is much higher than normal. The article attributes this contamination to "orphaned" radioactive sources that were left behind by the Soviet military. These include "sources from gamma ray detectors, radioactive devices, radiopharmaceutical preparations and applications, and gamma and neutron sources used in geological research." According to the article, testing has discovered 157 contaminated areas in Baku, of which only 31 have been cleaned up. The remaining contaminated areas still have radiation levels of 120-3000 microroentgens per hour, compared with the normal background level, which should not exceed 50 microroentgens per hour. Over 200 ministries, enterprises, and other institutions in Azerbaijan use radiation sources in their work, and Zerkalo argues that these sources are not adequately monitored, nor are necessary safety precautions being taken.  The paper charges that problems are especially severe in the oil industry in Azerbaijan, saying that radiation levels of 8000-1200 microroentgens per hour have been measured at the Surakhanyneft oil and gas extraction enterprise. Furthermore, the Azeri Medical University conducted tests on oil workers and discovered that the level of radioactive isotopes in their tooth enamel was equivalent to that of residents of the Chornobyl area in Ukraine. Currently all radioactive waste in Azerbaijan, including "orphaned" sources, should be disposed of at the Izotop industrial complex, located 30km from Baku. The facility is almost filled to capacity, however; nine of the existing ten waste storage tanks are full, while the tenth tank is half full. The article cites the director of the facility, Baba Huseynov, as saying that "every compartment has a strictly limited capacity- 200 Curie. Today we cannot bury the ownerless sources of radiation we have found because we will thus fill up the last tank."

The authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan are well aware of the extent and dangers of the Caspian pollution by the nuclear wastes.  State Committee of the Azerbaijan Republic on Nature Protection (1993; TACIS/MoE of Georgia, 1998; Courier, Rustavi-2 night TV show, 04.02.02) has reported:

"The issue of radioactive wastes in the Caucasus region is basically related to the nuclear power plant operated by Armenia, military camps, and oil drilling and processing operations in Azerbaijan and some parts of the North Caucasus. Different research and medical institutions are also the sources for radioactive wastes. There are practically no data on these types of wastes and the issue needs to be further studied. Even if there is some information, it is frequently classified and not available for different users.  Public awareness about radioactive wastes is also very low within the entire region. Therefore, casualties in the population are not rare. In particular, a high threat is from former Soviet military bases, where significant amounts of radioactive wastes are accumulated. There are no comprehensive inventories of radioactive sources and wastes. Nor do storage facilities exist for them. Although, the Caucasus countries have designated authorities, they have little capacity to handle the issues. In Azerbaijan, radionucleides of naturally occurring radium, thorium and potassium were found in oil drill fields. At some places, soils are so polluted that they need to be buried as radioactive wastes. "oil lakes" and flood fields, created while pumping bore-waters back into oil-bearing layers, aggravate the situation. Some old oil drill fields currently are used as settlements hence the population is exposed to radon noble gas damaging to the lungs. A similar situation exists for chemical plants and oil refineries. Ground waters with high radium-226, thorium-228 and potassium-40 content were used in a Baku iodine plant as a raw material. Consequently, part of plant territory and equipment were polluted by radionucleides. Especially urgent is the problem of activated charcoal decontamination, accumulated in the plant territory."


The case of nuclear pollution through the Azerbaijan Republic, especially in the Apsheron peninsula, (it is very close to Iran and it is the same place that Azeri authorities have proposed to Americans, according to several reports, for creation of a military base) has been the subject of a valuable study headed by Professor Farroh Djahanguir (previously refereed to this report and its address) under the title of "Radioactive Pollution on the Apsheron Peninsula and Caspian Sea."   Some of its contents reveal that:


"Radioactivity in the oil fields of Azerbaijan was reported by the Geology Institute (GI) of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences and the State Committee for the Nature Protection (NP). However, the environmental impact of radioactivity on soil contamination, surface and ground waters, and aquatic life is extensive. Oil production from the Caspian Sea's on-shore and offshore oil fields dates back to the late 1800's.

Oil production from oil fields of the Apsheron Peninsula started at the beginning of the 19th century. During the intervening years, radioactive contamination of soil, water, and air have occurred. In the recent official Azerbaijan publication on nature protection, it is stated "research results of study of radionuclide composition of tests have showed elevated presence of natural radium, thorium and potassium". It has been determined again by Azerbaijan officials during all phases of oil related activities such as production, processing, transportation, and storage, that radioactive contamination of the environment has occurred. Additionally, it has been stated that injection of the produced water into oil-bearing strata has caused severe radioactive contamination of the environment. Additional sources of contamination are reported from handling and service of the oil field equipment, chemical processing and oil-refinery plants which are located near Baku and Sumgait . For example, the Baku iodine plant, during iodine production, elevated high concentration of radionuclides (namely, radium-226, thorium-228 and potassium-40) and discharged them into water.
According to compiled data reported by NP, total volume of contaminated water discharged to surface, ground water, and the Caspian Sea in 1991 was 2.9x108 m3/year. This data comparison to 1985 shows a four-times increase.

This contaminated water is a major source of radioactive pollution in the environment.

It should also be stated that some of these contaminates sites are used for settlement of people and that most recently Azerbaijan refugees, displaced from their own homes by the Armenian occupation, have been relocated to these contaminated sites.


It has been stated that environmental contamination in the Republic of Azerbaijan, due to the presence of NORM in oil fields, oil equipment and processing plants are close to a national disaster.
Study of   radionuclide composition of soils, water, and hydrocarbons in Apsheron Peninsula (AP) shows presence of elevated radium, thorium, and potassium. Radioactivity background varies in different locations in the world. It ranges from 3-60 mR/hr. In some locations at AP, radiation from natural ionizing sources exceeds radioactivity background 10 to 100 times. Geological formations at AP are composed of clays, sandstone, and limestone with radioactivity background within 6 mR/hr. At the Caspian Sea coast, sea-sand's radioactivity background decreases to 3 mR/hr. At the tectonically disturbed zones of AP, radioactivity background increases to 15-20 mr/hr. The average radioactivity background in Azerbaijan according to GI radiation experts is within 10-12 mR/hr. At some oil fields in South-western AP and around iodine plants the level of radioactivity elevated background varies from 600 to 5.000 mR/hr. The origin of NORM at oil and gas fields of AP is related to drilling and production of oil and gas.

Other sources of radioactive contamination of the environment in Azerbaijan are mud volcanoes and geothermal energy production wells. Radioactive contamination of the environment is not limited to Azerbaijan; other neighboring countries namely, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran are facing radiation related environmental problems."



Perhaps the most important study is the work of group pf scientists headed by B. Shaw (  This study must be the center of every research about the nuclear pollution in the Caspian Sea. Let's look at some of its contents (some of the figures and tables that are mentioned in the following section are not included in this report. However, they are readily available in the address of the report):


"In the Caspian Sea region of Central Asia, there are several nuclear reactors used for power production and research, and many nuclear sites remaining from activity of the FSU [former Soviet Union], including those of uranium mining and production, nuclear waste dumping, storage, fuel production, and PNEs. The Caspian basin includes all of the sites north and beyond Moscow to the headwaters of the Volga River, the to the west to the source of each of the major river systems, the Kama, Ural and Emba, and the Kura to the east of the sea. However, for the purposes of this study, only those within the immediate Caspian Sea region are described in detail because of their direct potential impact to the sea and to the region's vulnerability to transnational conflict (B. Shaw, personal communication, June 1998; D.J. Bradley, personal communication, June 1998).

Figure 19 and Table 4 indicate the sites of nuclear reactors for the production of power in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea, sited at Novovoronezh (Volgadonsk) (Figure 20), Balakovo (Figure 21), and Rostov in Russia, at Aqtau in Kazakhstan (Figure 22), and at Yerevan in Armenia (PNL 1998a, 1998b; INSC 1997, 1998b, 1998c, 1998g). Reactors for research are found at Tehran and Esfahan, Iran, and Dmitrovgrad, Russia (EIA 1998; INSC 1998a, 1998c). Others outside the immediate Caspian Sea area that could potentially have an impact to the sea, for example, via the Volga watershed, are probably at low risk of doing so. Nonetheless, a recent report from the Bellona Institute (Kudrik 1997) reported accidental discharge of radioactivity to the atmosphere at the Dimitrovgrad Research Institute on the Volga River July 25-26, 1997. Discharge levels of 131iodine were about 18 times above the normal levels (2.2 to 2.6 GBq for two days, 1.9 to 2.2 GBq for 5 days, above the regular levels of 122 MBq/day) for about one week (Kudrik 1997).

All phases of the nuclear fuel cycle, along with weapons testing, accidents, deliberate discharge of wastes, and disposal of industrial, medical, and research wastes could potentially contribute to radionuclide contamination of the Caspian Sea. Nuclear fuel cycle activities include past and present uranium mining and milling operations, uranium conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication, irradiation in nuclear reactors, and storage of wastes from every step in the cycle.


Table 4.  Nuclear Reactors in the Caspian Sea Vicinity










INSC 1997





EIA 1998;
INSC 1998a





INSC 1998a



LMFBRf (BN-350)


INSC 1998b


Novovoronezh (Volgadonsk)

PWR (7 units)


PNL 1998a



VVERh (210 through 1000)


INSC 1998e


Rostov (Volgadonsk)

PWR VVER (4 units)


INSC 1998g



PWR (4 units)


PNL 1998b





INSC 1998f



BWRi (4 units)


INSC 1998c

a) PWR pressurized water reactor.
b) ENTC GSCR subcritical water reactor.
c) HWZPR tank-in-pool heavy water reactor.
d) LWSCR subcritical light water reactor.
e) TRR pool water reactor.
f) LMFBR liquid metal cooled fast breeder reactor.
g) EWG-1 tank-type water- and gas-cooled reactor.
h) VVER is a Soviet-designed PWR, in Russian called Vodo-Vodyanoi Energeticheskii Reaktor.
i) BWR boiling water reactor; at Dmitrovgrad, there are four different research BWRs: MIR-M1 (channels and pool); RBT-10/1 (pool); RBT-10/2 RBT-6 (pool); SM-2 (tank).


The major problems related to waste management that are reported for Russia, but which would likely apply to the other republics of the FSU as well, are as follows: large quantities of existing and newly generated radioactive wastes remain untreated; a lack of facilities for safe handling of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel; facilities that are not considered safe, do not meet current environmental requirements, and/or are filled to capacity. These problems increase the risk of radioactive contamination of the environment and for radiation accidents.

Although sites of nuclear activity are not as concentrated in the Caspian Sea region as in some other areas of the FSU, there are nonetheless a number of sites of potential concern. Near the Caspian Sea, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkmenistan all contain regional radioactive material storage sites, called radons. For example, the radon at Baku, Azerbaijan, on the shore of the Caspian, does not treat wastes, but stores up to 25 m3/year of solid and liquid radioactive waste materials. The radon facility at Yerevan, Armenia, stores up to 5 m3/year of solid, liquid, and biological radioactive wastes, and spent ionizing radiation sources. Rivers of northeast Azerbaijan flow directly into the mid-Caspian Sea; rivers of southeast Azerbaijan, the major one of which originates in Armenia and drains the Yerevan area, flow directly to the south Caspian. Therefore, any radioactive wastes carried from mining or former-processing sites in these areas would also potentially be carried to the sea (ENRIN 1997b). Further, former uranium mining and processing sites and sites of PNEs are in the region of the Caspian and could pose risk for release of radioactive materials into the waterways that lead to the sea (Figure 23, Table 5). A detailed description and inventory of radioactive residues and wastes resulting from the FSU nuclear activities in this region can be found in Bradley (1997).

On the Turkmenistan coast of the Caspian, two chemical factories that use activated charcoal in their industrial processes have released radioactive wastes onsite at Cheleken Chemical Factory and Nebit Dag Iodine-Bromide Factory (Figure 23, Table 5). The total radioactive pollution at the former site has been monitored at 200,000 Bq/kg (average 80,000 Bq/kg) of wastes, in a total of 15,000 to 18,000 mt of wastes that are accumulated around the factory (Berkeliev 1997), which would equal a total maximum activity of about 40 Ci (D. Bradley, personal communication). There are also deposits of radiobarites in old wells drilled for oil, gas, and industrial salts at Cheleken, the total radioactivity of which was estimated at 10 million Bq (.0003 Ci) in 1966 (Berkeliev 1997).

Although detailed information is not available, it is strongly suspected that PNEs were carried out for industrial purposes at least once in 1972 in the Mary Region of Turkmenistan to seal a gushing petroleum well, and similar PNEs were carried out in the Ustjurt and the Kyzlkum of Kazakhstan near the Turkmenistan border (Berkeliev 1997; Bradley 1997; Figure 23, Table 5).


Table 5. Nuclear Fuel Processing Facilities, Radons,a and Other Potential Sources of Radioactive Pollution in the Caspian Sea




Facility type





Radioactive waste storage

Bradley 1997




Radioactive waste storage site

IAEA 1995 (in

Bradley 1997)



Uranium strip mine

Uranium processing

Berkeliev 1997



Underground nuclear test site

Peaceful nuclear explosions (three)

Bradley 1997



Kaskor uranium mill

Uranium tailings

Bradley 1997


Plato Ustijurt

Underground nuclear blast site

Peaceful nuclear explosion

Bradley 1997


Sarykamys area

Underground nuclear blast site

Peaceful nuclear explosion

Bradley 1997 


North shore Caspian near Kazakhstan western border

Underground nuclear blast site

Peaceful nuclear explosions (series)

Bradley 1997


Novovoronezh, Volgadonsk

Novovoronezh Reactor site

Spent fuel storage

INSC 1998d



Uranium mine

Uranium mine

Bradley 1997


Volgograd and Samara on the Volga River




Dmitrovgrad Research Institute

Radioactive waste storage site

Radioactive waste injection

Bradley 1997


Bradley 1997 



Dmitrovgrad Research Institute

Accidental discharge

Kudrik 1997



Cheleken Chemical Factory

Industry using activated charcoal

Berkeliev 1997


Nebit Dag

Nebit Dag Iodine-Bromide Factory

Industry using activated charcoal

Berkeliev 1997



Gyusha transfer station

Uranium mining, transfer

Berkeliev 1997


Karakumskij Canal, Ashkabad


Radioactive waste storage site

Bradley 1997


Kyzlkum near Kazakhstan border

Underground nuclear blast site

Peaceful nuclear explosion

Berkeliev 1997

a) Radon is a regional radioactive waste storage site in the FSU republics.


Situation of Kazakhstan is horrible.

Cynthia Werner from Department of Anthropology of the Texas A&M University reports: 

"Between 1949 and 1989, the Soviet government conducted more than 470 nuclear tests at the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (SNTS) in northeastern Kazakhstan. The test site is surrounded by several villages and located approximately 150 km west of the city of Semei (formerly Semipalatinsk). According to some estimates, up to two million people living in the region have been exposed to varying doses of radiation as a result of these tests."

Also, the report of National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan ( shows:

"The ecological situation in the Mangystau province (Kazakhstan) became aggravated in 1960's, at start of exploration of the deposits of uranium ores, oils, and raw minerals and the creation of a chemical industry in Mangyshlak, in neglect of environmental problems. The KOSHKAR-ATA tailing pond is the most hazardous place among all objects, making a considerable contribution to atmospheric contamination with powder radioactive and toxic wastes of chemical and mining metallurgic industries. KOSHKAR-ATA represents a serious hazard for habitants of Aktau and adjacent inhabited localities.

The KOSHKAR-ATA tailing pond, a drain-free settling pool for industrial, toxic, chemical and radioactive wastes, and for ordinary domestic drains, is 5km north of Aktau (Mangystau province), which is situated on the shore of the Caspian Sea. Industrial, toxic and radioactive wastes, solid sediments of unpurified ordinary domestic drains from a part of the Aktau residential region have been placed in the tailing pond since 1965 and have been stored there up to this day.

Solid radioactive wastes of the chemical mining metallurgic plant, where uranium ores were processed, were buried without control or official account in a trench-type burial without hydro-isolation. According to the data of the Mangystau Provincial Ecology Department (Aktau), the real mass of radioactive wastes (RAW), disposed in the tailing pond, is about 360 million tons with 11000Ci total activity. Results of works, which were carried out by the Institute of Nuclear Physics in 1999, showed that the exposure dose rate (EDR) at shallow zone equaled 80-150mkR/h. Some places were revealed, where EDR was 1500mkR/h and radionuclide content was up to 548-5000bk/kg. According to preliminary experimental data on samples from KOSHKAR-ATA, which were obtained by using a certified EPR-dosimetry method, dose load measured 15-25kGy. That is similar or even exceeds the dose value of soil samples from the Southeast trace of the Semipalatinsk test site. As a result of a steady reduction in the water phase level, the area covered by just bed sediments, which are a source of toxic dust, has recently increased. Under existing hydro-geological conditions of the tailing pond region, there is potential for penetration of liquid waste to aquifers and to the Caspian Sea."


Boris Gulubov which I refereed to his article earlier, has written in other parts of his interesting report:


"When I served on a team that conducted geological surveys in Central Kazakhstan in the early 1960s, we frequently received strict orders to temporarily stop searching for traces of uranium. However, out of curiosity we occasionally ignored the political leadership, turned on the radiation meters, and watched as the indicator arrow flew off the scale, showing radiation intensity hundreds -- if not thousands -- of times higher than naturally occurring levels. The cause? Clouds of radioactive dust kicked up by powerful atomic explosions over the Semipalatinsk testing ground, a few hundred kilometers away.

However, during my research on the Caspian Sea at the National Institute for Marine Geology and Geophysics in 1966, my belief in the political propaganda about nuclear explosions began to wane after several of my friends who had worked near the Caspian for many years died suddenly of leukemia. I became convinced that, rather than isolated incidents, such cases were typical along the Caspian coast. At the same time, articles began to appear in the press about the danger of radioactive fallout from nuclear explosions.

By 1967, I had learned that the Caspian's levels of bomb-grade tritium -- a highly enriched radioactive element, dangerous to all living creatures -- had increased 300 to 400 times since the atomic blasts. The half-life of this isotope is 12.8 years, so it was not surprising that into the 1970s high levels of tritium were found in Caspian water samples. Data published recently by both the Russian NGO Taifun and the Russian government's Hydrological and Meteorological Center confirm the high level of radioactive contamination at the time.

From 1966 to 1987, 69 underground industrial nuclear explosions were detonated in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea. Twenty-four of these were designed to create underground storage chambers in the salt domes of the Astrakhan, Karachaganak, Orenburg, and Sovkhoz condensed gas deposits. Experts also hoped nuclear explosions would increase the productivity of oil sites at the Grachevskii and Takhta-Kugultinskii fields."

It is necessary that the countries of the Caspian Sea region try to establish a system for combating the nuclear pollution in this area as soon as possible.  The role of the atomic energy organizations in each of these countries and also the International Atomic Energy Agency in this field is very important.  Fortunately, at the moment, there are several major international instruments that can be used by the concerned parties for protection of the Caspian Sea against the nuclear pollution.  I believe even before the legal regime of the Caspian Sea is finally determined among the coastal countries, serious steps must be taken in this field.  Some of the most important international instruments that must be observed in the process are:

1-     Vienna Convention on Civil liability for Nuclear Damage, 1963 and its 1997 Protocol.

2-     London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Material, 1972.

3-     Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, 1980.

4-     Monte go Bay (united Nations) Convention on the law of the seas, 1982.

5-     Basel Convention on the Trans-boundary Movement of the Hazardous waster and their Disposal, 1989, and its Protocol of 1999 on Liability and Compensation.

6-     Vienna Convention on Nuclear Safety, 1994.

7-     Vienna Convention on Supplementary Compensation For nuclear damage, 1997.

8-     Helsinki Convention on the Protection and Use of Trans-boundary Waters and International Lakes, 1992, and its Protocol of 1999.

9-     Vienna Joint Convention on the safety of Spent fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, 1997. This Convention is especially important for transportation of nuclear materials taking into consideration the recent arrangement between Iran and the Russian Federation for sending the spent fuels of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant and possibly other power plants in Iran.   The negotiation for construction of 4 to 10 other nuclear power stations in Iran by the Russians are under way, according to the strategic program of cooperation of Iran and Russian Federation.


I have two important points to add here:

A- Out of the several thematic centers that are established by the CEP (Caspian Environment Programme) in the littoral states of the Caspian Sea, the Legal Center, which is in charge of preparing regulations, is in Moscow.  I do not think that Russians are very interested in preparing regulations which most of them would address themselves.   May be these centers should circulate among the concerned states, before becoming fully independent from the CEP.

B- In preparing legal documents and operational standards in the Caspian Sea, due attention should be given to the current international regulations and standards regarding the special areas.  In these areas (such as the Antarctic waters) in addition to the general rules and regulations designed to protect all environments, some particular regulations are in place   because of the special geographical or physical characteristics of the areas.  In the case of the Caspian Sea, the fact that this body of water is not really connected to the open seas of the world makes it imperative to have special rules and standards.


... Payvand News - 6/11/03 ... --

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