We are exposed to radiation on a daily basis, most commonly via energy from the sun, but heavy doses can be hazardous or even fatal, particularly radiation given off from the disintegration of nuclear and atomic waste. Today we’re going to be exploring places on our planet in the radioactive red zone.
At number 10 is The Mediterranean Sea that surrounds the Italian Peninsula and its islands. It’s waves break the coasts of 22 countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. This idyllic area has been used as a disposal site for radioactive and other toxic waste for nearly 30 years. The Italian mafia has also been accused of dumping hazardous waste into the Mediterranean, and 40 ships carrying loads of radioactive materials have gone missing since 1994. So it’s worth taking a full body suit if you’re planning on going snookering in this sea.
And the Italian mafia doesn’t just dump waste in their own backyard. At 9 we have The Somali Coast. During the 1980s, numerous Swiss and Italian companies secretly dumped hazardous waste along the coast. An Italian crime syndicate sank at least 30 ships loaded with waste off the shores of Somalia. The United Nations’ Environment Program believes that the rusting barrels of waste washed up on the Somalian coastline during the 2004 Tsunami, were dumped as far back as the 1990s. Birth defects and cancer are still common in the area up to this day.
Number 8 is The Hanford Site, in Washington, USA. This place was an integral part of America’s atomic bomb project and manufactured the plutonium used to produce the first nuclear bomb used at Nagasaki. During the cold war, production ramped up and Hanford supplied the plutonium for most of America’s 60,000 nuclear weapons. It has since been decommissioned, but the area is still home to a huge amount of nuclear waste and will continue to be a risk area for many years to come.
At number 7 is Mayak, in Russia’s north-east. The industrial complex of Mayak, has had a nuclear plant for decades, and in 1957 was the site of one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents. At Karachay, Mayak, a poorly maintained storage tank exploded, releasing 50-100 tons of high-level radioactive waste. Experts believe that Karachay may be the most radioactive place in the world, and over 400,000 people have been exposed to radiation from the plant. Lake Karachay is so tainted by the nearby nuclear facilities that in 1990, just standing on the shore for an hour would give you more than enough radiation to kill you. On the plus side, lakefront property there is likely very inexpensive.
At number 6 is Sellafield, located on the west coast of England. Sellafield is where, in the early 1950s, a facility produced the Plutonium-239 required for the UK’s first nuclear bomb. In 1957, the plant was the site of the worst nuclear accident Great Britain has ever seen. The Windscale Fire blazed for three days, releasing radioactive gases. It has been linked to 240 cases of cancer. The plant releases some 8 million liters of contaminated waste into the sea on a daily basis, making the Irish Sea the most radioactive sea in the world. And it is home to one of the largest inventories of untreated waste, including 140 tonnes of civil plutonium, the largest stockpile in the world and enough to make hundreds of nuclear weapons.
Number 5 is another site in Russia, this time Siberia where a chemical facility is packed with nuclear waste. Sitting in uncovered pools are thousands of liters of liquid waste and 125,000 tons (113 million kg) of solid waste. In 2000, The Guardian newspaper reported that a joint team of Russian and American radiation monitors assessed rivers in the area of a top-secret Russian nuclear weapons complex in Siberia, reaching the conclusion that contamination had reached “staggering” levels, the worst ever monitored, and was out of “rational control”.
At number 4 is Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan. From 1946 to 1968, the Zapadnyi Mining and Chemical Combine at Mailuu-Suu produced and processed more than 10,000 tons of uranium ore, mostly to supply the USSR’s nuclear weapons program with fissile material. By 2006, it was considered one of the top ten most polluted sites on Earth, as was mentioned in that year’s Blacksmith Institute report. Today, 36 waste dumps are scattered throughout the area, with just under 2 million cubic metres of unsecured radioactive mining waste.
At number 3 we have The Polygon in Kazakhstan. This place was the Soviet Union’s primary location for testing its nuclear weapons during the Cold War and holds the record for the largest concentration of nuclear explosions in the world. An unnerving 700,000 people live in the area and though the impact of the radiation exposure was kept under wraps by the Soviets, until the facility closed in 1991, Scientists today estimate that over 200,000 people have health conditions resulting from the radiation.
At number 2 is one of the world’s worst and most well remembered nuclear accidents…Chernobyl. The Chernobyl accident in 1986 was the result of a flawed reactor design. The accident released 100 times more radiation than the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs. It caused over 6 million people to be exposed to radiation, and estimates as to the number of deaths that will eventually occur due to the Chernobyl accident, range from 4,000 to as high as 93,000. Even today, the word Chernobyl conjures up horrifying images of human suffering.
And at number 1 is Fukushima, Japan. Fresh in our minds, in March 2011 a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 6.9 triggered a tsunami along the east coast of Japan. The tsunami wave flooded the Fukushima Nuclear Plant, causing three nuclear meltdowns, hydrogen-air explosions, and the release of radioactive material. This led to uncontrollable fires, and the release of radioactive steam and hundreds of thousands of litres of contaminated water. The effect of the Fukushima earthquake in Japan is said to be the longest-lasting nuclear danger in the world. The Fukushima disaster was the most significant nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster and the second disaster to be given the Level 7 event classification of the International Nuclear Event Scale.
So, do you live near any of these sites? How terrified are you of being exposed to radioactive poisoning? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Could the Black Death Happen Again! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!