Atomic Lake Chagan: the unfulfilled dream of the USSR

In the 60s of the last century, in the midstthe cold war between the USSR and the USA both countries competed not only in the space sphere. As you know, this race ended with the fact that the Americans landed a man on the moon. Both countries conducted active tests of atomic weapons. And not only for military purposes. In the USSR, there was the so-called program “Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy” during which Soviet scientists considered the possibility of using atomic bombs to solve industrial and other non-military tasks.

The idea of ​​using nuclear explosion energy toSolving non-military tasks, such as laying water channels, mining, breaking glaciers and other peaceful purposes, the Soviet leadership could say "spied on" the West. In 1957, the so-called Operation Plushcher was launched in the USA or as it was called in the Union “Operation Plowshare”. Within its framework, the Americans fired 27 peaceful nuclear explosions. In 1973, the program was recognized as unpromising and closed. A similar program appeared in the USSR in 1965 and was carried out until 1988 in the territory of the Yakut, Kemerovo, Uzbek SSR and other regions. In its framework, a total of 124 peaceful nuclear explosions were carried out.

See also: How do scientists find out about the testing of nuclear bombs?

How the atomic lake Chagan was created

The program began with a project to createartificial lake Chagan in the Semipalatinsk region, in Kazakhstan. Subsequently, it was named Atomic Lake. As planned by the scientists, the crater created by a nuclear explosion could be used to create an artificial reservoir. At high temperatures from the explosion, the edges of the funnel and the bottom should have melted. Thus, the water entering the lake, for example, as a result of spring floods, could stay there. It was planned to place such reservoirs in the arid Kazakh steppes at least forty. Scientists assumed to use them for the solution of problems of a summer drought, and also as places for a watering of farm animals. But the arrogance of scientists in the end let them down.

The first industrial explosion in the USSR took place 15January 1965 in the floodplain of a small river Chagan, which is a tributary of the Irtysh. For this, scientists have created a well with a depth of about 178 meters and laid a nuclear charge of 140 kilotons in it. The power of the explosion was so large that 10.3 million tons of soil was lifted into the air to a height of over 950 meters.

A crater with a depth of 100 and a diameter of 430 meters was formed at the site of the explosion. Tons of rock were scattered over a radius of several tens of kilometers.

Satellite image of Chagan Lake (round crater)

In the spring of the same year, work began on diggingchannels for the descent into the funnel of flood waters from the Chagan River. Work was done very quickly. Scientists wanted to catch up to the beginning of the spring flood. But in the end, when all engineering work was completed, an artificial reservoir with a total volume of about 20 million cubic meters appeared in Kazakhstan.

Soviet experts understood that melt watermay carry precipitated radioactive dust from the entire region to Irtysh, therefore, to prevent such consequences, protective platinum was also erected on the lake. As indicated by various sources, between 180 and 300 people worked in the explosion zone. Everyone subsequently developed chronic diseases due to high doses of radiation.

Lake tried to settle animals

In the USSR, at first they were proud of this project. They made a film about the achievements of the Soviet peaceful atomic program. And yes, they even swam in the lake. The first swim was made by the USSR Engineering Minister.

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In the late 60s built near the lakebiological station, which conducted a series of experiments to study the effect of residual radiation on living organisms. More than three dozen different species of fish, more than two dozen species of mollusks, as well as mammals and almost 150 species of different plants were launched into Lake Chagan.

It is noted that up to 90 percent of all theseorganisms subsequently died. But not because of radiation, but because of the habitat uncharacteristic for them. But the remaining 10 percent of animals that could survive in these conditions, the radiation is even worked. Many species mutated and passed on the genes of these mutations to subsequent generations. In particular, some species of fish and other aquatic inhabitants increased in size. In the mid-70s, the research station was closed.

Is Chagan Lake Dangerous Today?

Of course. Lake Chagan is listed by the Government of Kazakhstan in the list of localities particularly affected by nuclear tests. Some species of fish still live in the lake, but they are extremely not recommended. The water contained in the lake is not suitable for drinking and irrigation of agricultural land. The level of radioactive substances contained in it is hundreds of times higher than permissible norms. However, this does not stop some locals who bring livestock here for watering.

Despite the radiation danger, the Chagan nuclear lake today, like the Chernobyl exclusion zone, is a place attracting tourists from all over the world.

See also: The most radioactive place on Earth. And this is not Chernobyl

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