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Jos Kirps's Popular Science and Technology Blog

Karachay - The Deadly Lake That Kills Within 5 Minutes

November 15, 2007

Lake Karachay is definately not a place to spend your next holidays at. Located in the southern Ural mountains in eastern Russia, it is considered to be the most polluted spot on Earth, after being used as a dumping site for radioactive waste for decades.

Spending only 5 minutes at the shore of lake Karachay is enough to receive a deadly radioactive dosis, spending an entire hour near the lake will probably kill you within the next few hours and in most cases you even won't make it to the next hospital.

The radiation level at the shore of the lake is 600 röntgens per hour, and it accumulates some 4.44 exabecquerels (EBq) of radioactivity. The Chernobyl disaster released from 5 to 12 EBq of radioactivity, but this was widely distributed while Lake Karachay concentrates the entire radioactivity in a single location.

During the 1950's the Soviet Union started using the lake to dump waste from Mayak, a nearby nuclear waste storage and reprocessing facility built in 1945-48, in a great hurry and in total secrecy, as part of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapon program. Vast quantities of radioactively contaminated lakes and rivers near to the plant. Working conditions at Mayak resulted in severe health hazards and many accidents, including a major explosion on 29 September 1957.

During the 1960's the lake began to dry out and the wind carried radioactive dust away, irradiating half a million people with 185 petabecquerels of radiation which is comparable to the effect of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Consequently the lake was filled with concrete from 1978 to 1986.

It is not yet known if it will ever become possible to clean the contaminated area. Some experts even fear that the radioactivity could be lead to the Tetscha river and then to the Atlantic Ocean when getting into contact with groundwater, which could lead to a worldwide radioactive contamination.

View the Karachay Lake on Google Maps

blackline said on March 3, 2009:

Lake Karachay is located in WESTERN Russia.

gina said on September 3, 2010:

Does it really matter where in Russia it is located? It is a disaster wherever it is.

jason said on July 5, 2012:

yes it matters because it is where it is!!!!!!!

Steve said on September 17, 2012:

Actually the picture in the article is wrong, thats the ash dump, the actual lake is a little more than a mile NW of the ash dump, its coordinates are (had to write it out as the spam filter didnt like inclusion for coordinates lol) fifty five point six seven eight three three three by sixty point seven nine nine seven two two

Steve said on September 17, 2012:

Also everything ive read about this lake says it takes 1 hour to get a lethal dose of radiation, not 5 minutes, so its still not a place I would like to go even in a radiation hazmat suit, but even 5 minutes of exposure can not be good for your health.

Harry Marry Dickler said on January 7, 2013:

Well i think of reading this that this is alot of SHIT

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