Viewing cable 06DUSHANBE337, TAJIKISTAN: FINANCING NEEDED TO PROTECT URANIUM STORAGE If you are new to these pages, please

read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs Reference ID 06DUSHANBE337 Created 2006-02-23 05:29 Classification UNCLASSIFIED Origin Embassy Dushanbe

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STATE FOR SCA/CEN, G, OES/PCI TASHKENT FOR ESTH E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON EIND SENV TI SUBJECT: TAJIKISTAN: FINANCING NEEDED TO PROTECT URANIUM STORAGE SITES DUSHANBE 00000337 001.2 OF 002

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¶1. SUMMARY: Central Asian Regional Environment, Science, Technology and Health Officer (REO), Regional Environmental Specialist and Embassy PolOff visited three of ten uranium waste sites in Tajikistan's northern Sughd region where processed uranium waste has been stored since 1942, the start of uranium mining in Central Asia. Officials from Voctokredmet (Eastern Rare Metals Industrial Entity) accompanied EmbOffs February 6. The improper storage and protection of uranium waste at two of the three sites raises environmental, health and security concerns. Radiation levels at one site reached 50 times the average background radiation level. The Tajik government and Vostokredmet consider security a priority but estimate costs to be over $250 million, an amount Tajikistan cannot finance. END SUMMARY. ¶2. Ten sites in the Sughd region store 54 million metric tons of uranium tailings. The sites are located within and close to Khujand, Tajikistan's second biggest city, and near two villages, Tabashar and Adrasman. Almost all of the waste storage sites in northern Tajikistan are near populated areas and/or close to rivers. Tajikistan is seismically active and earthquakes, floods, and the accompanying mud and landslides threaten to contaminate the environment with uranium waste. According to Vostokredmet officials, in the past four years, there have been four instances of materials from the sites being washed away at Taboshar and Adrasman. The lack of security around the sites allows anyone to enter and forage materials. Scavenging is widespread and impoverished locals look for scrap metal, which is then shipped to China, and other items that might be useful. GAFUROV ¶3. The Gafurov waste site is the best planned and maintained of the three EmbOffs visited. The former-Soviet government planned and financed the site right before the end of the Soviet Union.

Gafurov stores 400,000 metric tons of uranium wastes, mostly from uranium mined in Kyrgyzstan's Mailyy Suu. The site is a four-hectare, 14-meter high mound, located on a main road running between the city of Khujand and the airport. The mound is fenced, although there are at least two places in the fence where people can easily enter the site. Voctokredmet designed the site and decided that seismic and other conditions precluded the use of concrete. According to their research, covering the uranium waste with several meters of soil and heavily compacting the first layer would keep the waste from becoming exposed to the elements. Vostokredmet officials said the REO Geiger counter readings of 10-30 CPM, equivalent to .1 to .3 microSievert/hr are not above the normal level of background radiation. KARTA 1-9 ¶4. The second site visited, Karta 1-9, covers18-hectare, has no security walls and looks like abandoned industrial grounds. Karta 1-9 contains approximately three million metric tons of uranium waste from across the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries. Karta 1-9 has a thin cover of soil, approximately one to two meters deep that has not been compacted or treated in any way. The waste site is bordered on one side by a grove of apricot trees and on the other by an abandoned railroad line and pipes that originally fed liquid uranium waste to another site. Holes in the soil cover made by local rodents are visible throughout. Geiger counter readings were slightly above normal in the 20-50 CPM (.2-.5 microSievert/hr) range. DIGMAY DUSHANBE 00000337 002.2 OF 002

¶5. Digmay, the third site visited, is the most contaminated, and is located outside of town approximately nine kilometers from the Syr Darya River. The site is not well protected. Small signs forbid entry and a sign from the International Atomic Energy Agency marks it as a hazardous waste area. A wall encircles the site, however, the lack of a gate enabled EmbOffs to drive a large vehicle onto the site. The site used to be a reservoir to collect water in the same area where uranium waste was dumped. Since the end of the Soviet Union, the reservoir has dried up, and the uranium waste, approximately 36 million metric tons, is now open to the air. EmbOffs witnessed three men scouring the area for scrap metal and two bicycle riders rode through the bottom of the valley, within a few hundred meters of the most contaminated areas. EmbOff measured one of the scavengers' gloves and they were twice the levels of the ground he was standing on. CPM readings were 200-300 CPM (2-3 microSievert/hr) along the top of the site, and the guides assured us that readings in the dried-out flats, where the uranium was, would be up to 1,500 CPMs (15 microSievert/hr). Readings of up to 1,500 CPMs are extraordinarily higher than those at Gafurov, which measured at 10-30 CPMs and considered normal. Geiger counter measurements of the area in which the scavengers worked measured 200-500 CPM (2-5 microSievert/hr). ¶6. EmbOffs' guides were employees of Vostokredmet, originally known as Kombinat Number 6 established in Chkalovsk, outside of Khujand in 1945 ,to process uranium ores from mines in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan (Ungursoy) and Kyrgyzstan (Mailyy Suu). One of the Vostokredmet officials proudly informed EmbOffs that the uranium in the first nuclear weapon tested by the Soviet Union was mined and manufactured in Tajikistan. Due to its specialized experience, Kombinat 6 continued uranium processing using ores from other republics in the USSR (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia) and other Socialist countries (East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Mongolia) even after uranium mining ceased in Tajikistan. Because developing nuclear weapons was a high priority for the former-Soviet Union, uranium mining and processing also was of high importance. Although uranium mining in Tajikistan ended in 1956, uranium processing continues today using ores from other republics in the former Soviet Union and Socialist countries. Vostokredmet refines rare metals on contract and has a number of manufacturing affiliates, including a jewelry subsidiary, a metal processing equipment factory, and a scientific research institute. ¶7. COMMENT: The Vostokredmet officials that accompanied EmbOffss were very open about the number of sites, the amount of waste stored, and the storage methods used. They also reported that Tajikistan had signed the Additional Protocol and inspectors from the IAEA made annual trips to the known storage areas. They hoped that more attention to the state of the uranium waste storage sites would attract funding to bring the waste storage sites up to international standards. The officials estimated that approximately $250 million would be needed, a sum that would be impossible for the Tajik government to finance. END COMMENT. WILSON

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