58 The Radioactive Mines

The Radioactive Mines

Posted on March 20, 2008 by

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These guys have gone deep into old Soviet uranium mines. In these mines Russian prisoners have dug for radioactive materials for the Soviet Army.

As you can see on the top picture the Geiger counter shows that there is still some radioactive pollution.

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58 Responses to “The Radioactive Mines”

  1. muzhik says:

    Doubt I am first, but I could be :eek:

    Nasty mines, though. I don’t envy the blokes that worked there. :sad:

    • sepeles says:

      Fortune cookie:

      People laugh at you. You are unable to understand some humor and satire today. Don’t expect to get laid.

      • aleke says:

        bla bla bla you got owned because youre naive.

      • muzhik says:

        Fred, I agree with some of your parallels to USA to some extent. But I won’t elaborate and will leave it at that.

        Regarding USSR, it fell apart not due to loss of territory (that was the result, not the cause), but due to unsustainable economic and social policies that could only be enforced for so long.

        Concerning the commies: Zyuganov had garnered almost 18% of the vote in the last election, despite Kremlin’s efforts to monopolize the elections. That is way too high for the commies, IMHO. Some people never learn I suppose. Or do they do it out of spite? Go figure.

        That is why I fail to differentiate between a purportedly “satirical” comment and a commie lamenting the lost “empire” in all earnest.

  2. Akash says:

    It’s really phosphorescent in the dark…
    I wonder if the guys who went down there were able to make children after than…

  3. Maracas says:


    A lot of these minerals only show up under Ultra Violet light,
    and would not normally fluoresce like this..

    Still crazy place to go, but perhaps levels are low enough to allow a short stay..

  4. Coligny says:

    Can you really call this pollution since it’s natural radioactive materials that are just dug out ?

  5. zax says:

    Fascinating place! Hower, autor says: “Geiger counter shows that there is still some radioactive pollution.” I must add one little correction: it is normal for uranium ore to be slightly radioactive, so it is not result of polution. As a matter of fact, the more radioactive uranium ore = the more U235 isotope in it (the rest is U238) = the better.

  6. Thomas says:

    I was told that some prisoners lacked tools and had to dig with their bare hands resulting in finger loss and other deformations. Can someone confirm this?

  7. Swede says:

    Better than radioactive mimes. I hate them.

  8. commonman092 says:

    i dont envy those people either

  9. chicken says:

    WOW i love these pics, especially the trolley contraption ones ! spooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooky :)

  10. Catalyst says:

    Can somebody who can read Russian please translate the two signs in the 11th picture?

  11. visitor says:

    Picture 11 Sign translation:

    “Comrades! Don’t drink raw (fresh) water!”
    “Use the fire extinguisher”

    Really not sure on the last one, since stvol generally translates shot-gun, not sure of its exact meaning in fire fighting terminology.

    Great pics as always. My dad’s uncle worked the mines as a prisoner himself.

  12. LJF says:

    Once again – great picture, thanks for sharing.

  13. nekke says:

    that’s KRYPTONITE!

  14. J says:

    I can’t be certain, but I would guess that the phosphorescent pics would be patches of greater radium which you would get from radioactive decay in some cases… Also it’s too bad I can’t tell what the Geiger counter’s base it – not sure if it’s in millirem. If it is, then I don’t think that would be too high of a dose if thats a millirem per hour – people tend to get about 350 millirem per year dose from everything you normally do. People that work in nuclear power plants are allowed 5 Rem per year… So picking some random numbers: 7 rem/hr * 8 hrs/day * 300 days in the mine/year = 16.8 rem. So they probably got a rather high dose, but I think it’s still a bit under really dangerous amounts. I think I’d probably be more concerned about treatment of prisoners then radiation sickness/poisoning (unless they drank the water – that would really up the dose).

    And as a quick side-laugh…loved my captcha – kgb hehe…

  15. Richard S. says:

    Neat pics

  16. Miss India says:

    poor russian prisoners. I feel sorry for them :(

  17. Johnny2Bad says:

    Fluorescence is not an indicator of radioactivity, it’s just a property of some minerals and is used as an aid in identification. One very obvious example of a perfectly good, fluorescent mineral is diamond; the degree ranges from very fluorescent to none.

    ” … Just look at that rusty, used metal. Ah, the good old times. …”

    Rust, however, is a solid indicator of possible radioactivity. I’m not sure if it’s a valuable indicator with unpainted metal, which can rust anywhere very quickly. However, when you are looking at rock in general, say granite, and you see rusty patches, that is something to look for.

    Radioactive decay over millions of years causes the nearby metals to break down and corrode; when you see rust stains in ordinary rock it’s a strong indicator of radioactive material in close contact.

    The greatest danger in places like this is not from the uranium metal, which is not very radioactive, but from radon gas, which is. Break any rock anywhere and radioactive radon gas is released to the atmosphere. There is more radon gas in mines like this, although it’s present everywhere on earth. Uranium is one of the most common elements and is present in small amounts in virtually all soil.

    You can safely hold yellowcake in your hand (uranium metal after most impurities are removed). Don’t breathe it (ie dust) and don’t eat it. If you do, it will embed in your body for long enough (20~80 years) to possibly, but not certainly, damage nearby tissues enough to cause a cancer. Because it’s a heavy metal, like lead or mercury, all the uranium metal you’ve ever eaten or breathed remains in your body forever.

    ” … As a matter of fact, the more radioactive uranium ore = the more U235 isotope in it (the rest is U238) = the better. …”

    This is partly true; you were doing good there until you threw in “ore”. There are no naturally occurring Uranium metals that are higher in U-235 than others, beyond very slight variations. In order to increase the amount of U-235 you have to take large amounts of Uranium and reprocess it in a human-engineered process, essentially throwing away U-238 and retaining U-235.

    After a while you can increase the concentration of U-235 to make a useable nuclear fuel for a reactor (a few %; perhaps 3 to 5%; it varies a bit depending on what the particular reactor it’s destined for likes).

    The U-238 that is thrown away is called “depleted uranium”. It is essentially non-radioactive. It is used in some munitions, since it’s heavier than lead, and it’s used to mix with bomb-grade material to reprocess it into something that can be used as fuel in a reactor, when nuclear arsenals are retired. This is the opposite of enriching natural Uranium for fuel use; in this case you throw in a bunch of useless U-238 (as far as its value as nuclear fuel goes) and mix it with bomb grade material that is far too rich to use as nuclear fuel.

    Very interesting photos, you can see visible occurrences of Uranium in many of the photos. Good quality Uranium ore is 1~2% uranium 98~99 % other rock. There are richer deposits on earth, but not anywhere the Soviets mined. The Uranium metal itself is roughly 99+% useless as far as a material for nuclear use goes. So, typical Uranium ore from mines like these yields about 6 ounces of moderately radioactive material that can actually be used to generate power. If further processed, it could generate a few grams of plutonium.

  18. Johnny2Bad says:

    ” … So, typical Uranium ore from mines like these yields about 6 ounces of moderately radioactive material that can actually be used to generate power. If further processed, it could generate a few grams of plutonium. …”

    Sorry, I should have said:
    … So, typical Uranium ore from mines like these yields about 6 ounces of moderately radioactive material *** per tonne *** …
    … a few grams of plutonium *** per tonne of ore. ***

  19. Mikeyhell says:

    Sorry had to comment b/c the captca said comrade… intresting article though

  20. Filip says:

    In Soviet Russia, Mine mines You!

  21. Telkom says:

    Enter the prison of the future! I’d love to see Scofield get outta THAT one.

  22. ahorner says:

    ROFLMAO! My capatcha is “stalin”

  23. Doc Brown says:

    Run Marty, the Libyans!

  24. D says:

    I can see there are a few new people looking at this…… yes the captcha’s are humorous….once….maybe twice.

  25. frost_ii says:

    Title on the firs photo:

    Household dosimeter with the clock & alarm

  26. PT says:

    I was surprised to see so much unsupported back (tunnels without roof supports), and so little slabbing. All the uranium mines I’ve seen have been in wet, ratty sandstone – unsupported, they would have caved solid in a couple of months.

  27. CZenda says:

    Very interesting.
    Where are the mines and how comes the people were able to get to them – I guess they are amateur speleologists, otherwise they would not be using a “household” Geiger…

    Slightly OT, there was a concentration camp in early fifties some 100 km from where I live where Czech political prisoners were forced to do the same. The ore from these mines was confiscated by USSR and used for well-known purposes.
    The place is a museum today.

  28. lamarez says:

    is it fuf’s house?

  29. Murka667 says:

    Hello! I am from Russia and has long been interested in underground theme. Legends about the use of prison labour in the uranium mines are very popular, but in fact it was only used less frequently than talk about it. This work requires high qualification relates to access to explosive materials. No one would be allowed prisoners to such work.

    Perhaps here the author presents some of these photos, he will tell more. :)
    Most of the uranium mines shown here, is not currently available. The level of radiation on the photo-01 751 microroentgen per hour. In these places may take longer.

    PS. Sorry for the poor English. Gooogle helped me. ;))

  30. Murka667 says:

    More photo:

  31. Barti says:

    A Polish website about the Czech uranium mine Zales:

  32. komatoze says:

    *A TOPIC IN RELATION TO THE PICTURE STORY* i think its amazing and worth mentioning on how abundant russia is with mineral ores. from the KMA (look it up) which has deposits of literally trillions of tons of iron ore (astronomical but true) to the great nickel-fields of the north in norilsk, russia is unmatched in mineral/energy resources. also let it be known for the record, this is an unbiased view considering im american and not russian in heritage. just cant help but be fascinated with your isolated HUGE country… its so big and there are so many trees there, jesus. there i said it

  33. David Syzdek says:

    I don’t know what the units are on the Geiger counter are or whatever but all of the glowing minerals are fluorescing in ultraviolet light. Many natural history museums have mineral displays in which cycles between UV and normal light. UV lights are often used in prospecting as it is a good way to distinguish minerals. By the way, most of the minerals that fluoresce aren’t radioactive.


    You are in a lot more danger from the roof caving in or falling down a shaft than from the radiation.

    BTW, my captcha was kgb. Cute.

  34. Very amazing. I would love to explore these places, the radiation shouldn’t be too high, unless like mentioned somewhere the Russians dumped radioactive waste there. Natural uranium is tolerable for a short time, with proper HEPA cartridges to protect from radioactive dust.

    If they dumped processed waste in there… then my friend you are dead.

    Some of the minerals are nice, I hope they flouresce under UV and thats not the radioactivity making them glow!

    Beautiful mine construction, someday i hope I can see mines like this!

  35. [...] other Soviet mines in the Kyshtym region the ones in the photographs above at least aren’t radioactive. The ones shown here date back to the days of the Gulags and have been abandoned since the 1960s. A [...]

  36. [...] Unlike other Soviet mines in the Kyshtym region the ones in the photographs above at least aren’t radioactive. The ones shown here date back to the days of the Gulags and have been abandoned since the 1960s. A [...]

  37. [...] a una mina de uranio rusa 23 03 2008 English Russia ha publicado un interesante reportaje fotográfico de un descenso a las minas de uranio que la [...]

  38. Risto says:

    Those fluorescence pictures are clearly taken with ultraviolet light, just look how purple that rock looks. Also if there was enough radioactivity to cause that strong fluorescence, those people would be dead (of course it could be taken with very long exposure.

  39. wyoman says:

    so why would you guys argue over a mine

  40. Jesus Ross says:

    Prison Break is definitely one of the best action suspense TV series. I love the story line, i like T-bag too.~~’

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