Close

Ciudanovita, the people and the uranium

A project log for City Air Quality

Developing hardware to track and assert the air quality in a city based on IOT topology.

Radu MotisanRadu Motisan 05/11/2017 at 17:352 Comments

I had the chance to visit the former uranium mining colony of Ciudanovita in Romania, while having the detector installed on my vehicle. This is a story of what I saw, combined with the data recorded by the device.

Every gain comes at a price, and so the comfort of technology claims its cost at some other end. For nuclear energy – what it gives is known, modern living conditions, heating, illumination, transportation and all in one the civilised world as we know it. Yet what it takes sometimes remains in the shade, like what an environmental mess irresponsible uranium mining can be, and how hard it is to clean that up?

Ciudanovita in March, 2017

Ciudanovita, in the Caras-Severin county, is one such example. Sadly, it’s a mix of grey Romanian history under Russian occupation, radioactive contamination of a piece of heaven and the struggle for a normal life of those that are still living there.
Ciudanovita surroundings

Under Russian occupation, the Soviets had interest in this area. After the initial prospections in the 1950s, they began uranium ore mining in the 1952, using their own equipment and local workers. This lasted up until 1957 when the SOVROMs were disbanded. Then the Romanians continued the operations until 1964 finalising the country’s debts of war to Russia. All this time, the uranium ore was simply loaded in containers and shipped to the East by train. The mining required signifiant resources, and as a direct result the colony of Ciudanovita grew in population, reaching as high as 35000 people. There was a local hospital, a cinema, restaurants, places with live music and draft beer and many shops.
Ciudanovita today

When one approaches the area today, will first notice the difficult access. The roads are poor, unmaintained. The Geiger counter will sound its alarm in various places while getting closer to the former mines.
The colony is in the immediate vicinity of the mines. The problem is people are living in a valley, and one of the slopes right next of the village is where the ore residue has been deposited. It is obvious this forms a channel for rain water to infiltrate the groundwater, not to mention the strong winds blowing contaminated fine dust over the populated area at only a few hundreds of meters in the valley. The surface readings in the residue area, called “Golgota” are rather high, surpassing 1uSv/h in many places.
Highly radioactive uranium ore residue dumps nearby the populated area

Elevated readings on the Gamma Scout Geiger Counter

Ignorance or neglijence, the mining project cared little about keeping the place clean. Radioactive ore was carelessly loaded in trains, but from the mine to the train station, some of it also padded the roads and the surroundings. Some of that it is still there, throwing invisible ionising radiation to anything in the area.
Contamination map

Readings detail in the uranium ore residue dumps

It was bad enough to see a village in poverty due to its main source of income – mining collapsed. There are so many similar areas in Romania, but for this one in particular, add the dangerous invisible enemy lurking around, for a nightmarish scenario. Those that have their homes there live it everyday. There were some plans to clean the area, but no proper action was taken so far.

As for the device, this short trip proved its utility.

Additional resources:
Fosta mina de uraniu de la Ciudanovita neecologizata nici acum
Ciudanovita locul din Romania unde radiatiile de uraniu depases de 100 de ori limita de alerta
Moartea poarta numele de Ciudanovita
Marturisiri din Ciudanovita

Discussions

Radu Motisan wrote 05/11/2017 at 18:20 point

That is a very small settlement and they barely have roads - don't expect much data on their medical conditions. Apparently there are other places on Earth with elevated radiation values, even a few orders of magnitude over what I found in Ciudanovita.

But what strikes me is the lack of action to clean up the site and the negligence of the authorities on such issues. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Evan Juras wrote 05/11/2017 at 18:07 point

This is a very interesting and informative post! Thanks for sharing. Are there elevated rates of cancer and other sickness in Ciudanovita?

  Are you sure? yes | no