Former Soviet republic littered with radioactive mine sites

The former Soviet republic of Tajikistan may be on the brink of environmental disaster as decades-old abandoned uranium mines lie open to the elements and some 55 million tons of nuclear waste contaminate the northern part of the country, left in the wake of Stalin’s arms race with the U.S. Nuclear waste “is dispersed over dozens, if not hundreds, of kilometers around,” estimates one official. A natural disaster could spread the contamination even farther. Thousands of Tajiks live near dangerous former mine sites, and cancer levels in the tainted north are 250 percent higher than in other regions of the country. Says Tajik environment councilor Djalil Buzurukov, “Those mines are a legacy of the past and a menace for our future.”