International Meeting
2003 World Conference against A & H Bombs

Milya Kabirova
Chair, Chelyabinsk Nuclear Victims Organization "Aigul"
Russian Federation

Dear friends,

Let me greet all the participants of the International Meeting and thank the organizers for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to speak to you.

It is the third time that have taken part in the work of the conference, dedicated to the memory of the victims of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am aware of the pain that the people of Japan are feeling.

In 1945 your country lived through a terrible tragedy - an atomic bombardment that was the beginning of the atomic era, but it didn't become a lesson for others.

Nuclear arms are a tragic paradox of modern civilization. First, two great powers, straining the best minds of physicists, chemists, engineers and thousands of workers, spending a massive amount of resources, made the first atomic bombs and the rivalry of fear began: which has the more powerful, more modern and more deadly weapons and means of delivery? The crazy arms race conquered the whole world; three more countries - Great Britain, France and China - became owners of the military atom. At the end of the XX century, India, Pakistan and Israel joined the devil's own "nuclear club". From being simply weapons of mass destruction with the capacity to wipe out a few million people, nuclear weapons have become an evil force, capable of annihilating all life on Earth.

After the Second World War in the Urals, the heart of Russia, unique nuclear enterprises, new for the country and for the whole world, were built and put into operation in a very short space of time.

The first-born of the nuclear industry, its leader is considered to be the nuclear enterprise "Mayak", which was put into operation in 1948. It was there, under conditions of strict secrecy, that the production of military plutonium - the main component for nuclear bombs was carried out. This large scale work was performed in the extremely unfavorable post war conditions during the period of the arms race. Creating nuclear arms in the minimum time, the severe secrecy and the constant rush resulted in neglect of the people's health. The fact that the technology and equipment were still imperfect, and the lack of knowledge about the impact of radiation on people and the environment also contributed to this. In order not to lag behind the USA in the arms race, they paid little attention to creating safe nuclear production technologies and to storing and reprocessing radioactive waste. At that time, the problem of storing radioactive waste seemed less important than the task of producing weapon-grade plutonium. The increase of production output of the "Mayak" facility with not enough storage space for liquid radioactive waste, and imperfect management of storage meant that the majority of lakes and rivers, as well as land in the vicinity of the plutonium enterprise was contaminated with radio nuclides.

Thus, during 1948 -1952, without any decontamination measures being taken, liquid radioactive waste was discharged into the Techa River. In total, radioactive waste equivalent to 3 million curies was disposed into the Techa River system. As a result, 124,000 people in 41 residential districts were exposed to radiation, and more than 900 people became ill with chronic radiation diseases.

But this was not the end of the tragedy. The second radiation leak accident occurred on September 29, 1957. On the grounds of the nuclear complex Mayak, a container of high-level radioactive waste exploded, and 20 million curie of radioactive material scattered all around the vicinity. Consequently, 335,000 people in 391 residential districts were exposed to the radiation.

The third accident was somewhat smaller in scale than the first and the second ones. It was caused by radioactive dust carried by the wind from the shores of the Lake Karachai that served as the storage site for liquid high level radioactive waste. About 600,000 curies of radioactive material was spread, exposing 42,000 people in 68 settlements to radiation.

As a result of these three accidents a greater quantity of radio nuclides was released into the surrounding area than was released from the 4th reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Now, after 55 years have passed since the nuclear production at the "Mayak" facility began, it is obvious that nuclear specialists have two different faces. One is heroic, symbolizing self-sacrificing labor to create nuclear weapons. The other is tragic, connected with the ecological disaster, which resulted in damage to the health of many thousands of people.

Even now, the Russian government has not been able to recover from the damage inflicted by these accidents, and the people are left to continue to live on the contaminated land. In Muslumovo Village only, over 4,000 people remain in the same community, despite the fact that this village has been designated as a high-risk district, where annual average radiation exposure exceeds all standards.

It is necessary to draw people's attention to the health problems of the people in these communities. We have seen an increase in the number of the people who are unable to work, and the rate of early mortality and disability is on the rise. The instances of tumor, infertility and children born with deformity are also increasing.

For 58 years the people of Japan have remembered the horror of the nuclear bombardment. For 55 years my people have been suffering from radiation exposure.

We, who live in the "nuclear" regions of the nuclear super-power, have no right to stand by and watch as observers and wait while our destiny is decided by political and military elites. We have to take part in the process of preparing and making decisions in the sphere of nuclear policy. We have the right to do so.

This is our common problem. We have gathered here together - victims of production, victims of testing and victims of nuclear bombardment. We are all different but one desire unites us. This is the desire to live in a world without nuclear weapons, for future generations not to be hostages of nuclear production. The young generation faces a noble mission of drafting and passing international laws and conventions that ban the production and use of nuclear weapons. It is necessary to break the vicious circle: power - money- weapons- power that leaves society with no hope for a world free from nuclear threat.

While I was preparing my report I made copies of four photographs. These photos were taken in different places: Japan, Kazakhstan, Iraq and Russia. These are photos of children who became victims of radiation exposure. I am looking at them in horror and asking myself, what is in store for all of us if we don't do our best to abolish nuclear weapons and prevent their proliferation?