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Deserted Buildings Harbor Deadly Dangers

A dilapidated nuclear depository discovered in Russia's Stavropolye Region
It is usually very difficult to get lost in the Kursky District as there are many road signs. But this time something strange occurred to me: I swerved off the forest belt to an asphalt branch and reached an unusual place in half an hour.

Imagine a vast territory encircled with concrete posts with barbed wires and the Bruno spirals (some kind of a wired anti-personnel barrier). In the corners of the fence there are permanent weapon emplacements with machine gun embrasures and underground passages.

There is also a check-point with glassless windows, a semi-destroyed soldiers quarters and a canteen, almost intact by the way. And not a living soul around; you can hardly see even a bird there.   

I noticed a strange building; I saw similar ones when I served in the army in Central Asia, those were depositories for nuclear warheads. When I reached the building I understood that my surmise was correct: the building was made of concrete monolith blocks several meters tall; there was a door system supplied with special rollers. Each of the armored doors is about one meter thick and weighs several tons.

The depository was built in such a way that it can stand an explosion of a heavy landmine. It may sound surprising but the strong armor is not a problem at all for Russian people as five of the seven special doors were torn out and disappeared. One can only guess that the building was once supplied with a complicated cable system as there are only traces of the communication left on the walls; indeed, non-ferrous metals are very expensive now and people tore off the wires to sell. them.

It is still a mystery when looters come to the place. There are traces of an excavator not far from the depository: people hunted for the metal and dug out the very thick power cable. It is perfectly obvious that people in trucks come to the former army quarters; some people demolish the walls and take the bricks away.

When I left the deserted building of the depository I had some strange but at the same time actually familiar feeling. Later, I suddenly recollected that I experienced the same feeling on the first days after the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe when consequences of the accident were liquidated at the forth power unit. Does it mean that there is radiation in the deserted depository?

When I asked the head of the local administration Sergey Logvinov about the strange building, he cursed journalists for poking their noses where they are not invited. But after a while he agreed to explain something to me.

As it turned out, the secret infrastructure was built in the mid-1950, right at the height of the cold war. Powerful excavators were roaring in the steppe all night long, super strong concrete was delivered right from the area near the city of Novorossiisk. Then nuclear ammunition was brought to the new construction in special machines.

There are hardly any people who now remember for what weapons the ammunition was meant. So, the strange deserted building seems to be really very dangerous: as far as nuclear warheads were kept at the depository for decades, it is not ruled out the building is radioactive.

The head of the local administration warned me against falling into panic. "I visited the place with top army generals several times. They insist the base is no longer dangerous for health as the nuclear ammunition had been removed from the depository," he said.

But the situation is not that simple in fact. Although the ammunition was removed from the place, but it is highly likely that the concrete blocks and the brickwork were saturated with radiation after the decades within which the nuclear ammunition was kept in the building.

And army commanders don't use Geiger counters for their inspection trips about army camps, that is why they have no notion if the place is actually radiated or not. Unfortunately, I failed to find at least one Geiger counter in the nearby places. Thus, having no exact information about the radiation level in the depository it makes no sense to give way to panic.

On the other hand, although the danger is hypothetical, but it still remains. Head physician of the central regional hospital Ruslan Sabanov says that the death incidence caused by cancer diseases has increased by 30 per cent within the past ten years in the Kursky District. I wouldn't insist that the sad statistics is connected with the deserted depository of nuclear ammunition, but it would be good to check the radiation level there.

And finally, the last thing. Looters steal bricks, concrete blocks, heavy doors and other things from the deserted army station. Where are the looted bricks used? This would be extremely dangerous if those bricks were used for construction of apartment buildings.

Alexey Lazarev

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