Life in Kyrgyzstan’s once-booming uranium mining town, where the past poisons the future – by Liza Premiyak (The Calvert Journal – August 10, 2020)

Mailuu-Suu is a small town in southern Kyrgyzstan, secretly built by the Soviets in the 1950s. The uranium extracted there from the surrounding mountains between 1946 and 1968 was reportedly used to create the first atomic bomb for the Soviet nuclear programme.

But improperly managed, the mines also heralded environmental catastrophe. In 1958, a dam failure caused nuclear waste to collapse into the area’s water system.

Even when operations were running smoothly, nuclear waste was often hastily disposed of close to the town. Much of it remains. Today, earthquakes and landslides pose an ever present threat to the town’s uranium dumps.

If a natural disaster were to push any radioactive waste or heavy metals into the local river, it could contaminate the drinking water supply of the entire Fergana valley.

All of this makes Mailuu-Suu one of the most polluted places on earth. But in Alexander Komenda’s photos of the town, the continuing environmental damage is inconspicuous.

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