What will it take to get the cowardly, selfish people of Russia to stand up and take action to protect their children? Heaven only knows. The International Herald Tribune reports on the pathetic turnout to show support for the victims of Chelyabinsk:
A few hundred people gathered in a Ural Mountains city Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a catastrophic explosion at a nuclear dumpsite and to call for an end to waste processing at what was once a major Soviet atomic weapons facility, Greenpeace Russia said.
On Sept. 29, 1957, a waste tank at the Mayak nuclear weapons plant in the closed city of Chelyabinsk-65 exploded, contaminating 23,000 square kilometers (9,200 square miles) and prompting authorities to evacuate 10,000 residents from neighboring regions.
Some details of the disaster were first released to the public in 1989 as part of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's liberalization drive, but its impact on the local population remains largely unknown even now. Environmental activists say the damage has been compounded by other accidents, leaks and the planned discharge of liquid waste.
Mayak is now Russia's main nuclear waste processing plant, and Greenpeace Russia said activists called for a halt to those operations during a demonstration in the nearest major city, Chelyabinsk, about 1,500 kilometers (950 miles) east of Moscow. They planned to launch hundreds of model boats in the local river to symbolize people who have suffered because of the plant's activities, the organization said on its Web site.
As after the explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, young men including soldiers and students were sent to clean up after the explosion at Mayak, exposing them to radiation many believe caused health problems later. According to Greenpeace Russia, tumor rates among a few hundred people in two villages at the edge of the area that was evacuated are five times higher than the norm. It also says that cancer mortality rates among about 10,000 people living by the contaminated Techa river near the plant are significantly higher than normal.