So I think this might be in the top ten Worst Places On Earth.

It’s a lake in the southern Ural Mountains next to the site of the second-worst inadvertent nuclear disaster in history. Starting in the 1950s, the Soviets used it as an open-air spent nuclear fuel pit— this only after they stopped dumping it into the local river which flowed into the Ob…

They supposedly kept 4.44 exabecquerels— an SI unit measuring radioactivity, I had to look it up— worth of waste in the lake. A meaningless number, I know— Wikipedia suggests the Chernobyl disaster released 5 to 12 of the same unit, and that’s over thousands of kilometers. This would all be disgusting on its own without the 1957 Kyshtym disaster angle. The nearby Mayak facility had a coolant malfunction in a storage tank leading to a non-nuclear explosion and a radioactive cloud hundreds of miles wide. Hundreds of people died agonizing, mysterious deaths while tens of thousands were evacuated from a closed area the Soviets later covered up as a nature preserve. The CIA found out about it early but kept its lips sealed while rumors swirled for decades; they didn’t want to harm the fledgling American nuclear power industry.

Flash forward to poor Russia— specifically, Russia as of 0935 UTC this morning, courtesy of the Terra satellite. Not all of those are clouds. The fires plaguing Russia are advancing on Ozersk, the renamed town next to the old Mayak facility. Russian scientists had already been warning of the fires aerosolizing leftover Chernobyl fallout. I tried finding a good “Kremlin choked in smog” picture but got too disheartened to search after seeing pravda.ru had “Half-isolated Saakashvili harbors aggressive plans against Russia still” as the top story above the fires. I kid you not, this is the picture they used of him:

Welcome to the twenty-first century, everybody.

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