Interest in the problems due to the radioactive contamination of the environment has been frequently stimulated by rumors of an occurrence of severe contamination of lakes and rivers in areas of the Ural Mountains. Occasional evidence appearing in publications and provided by Soviet emigrants has been pieced together and seems to suggest that there is an ideal opportunity for groundwater geochemists and others to evaluate such major radioactivity in the environment. The reasons that such a study probably will not take place is that the contamination may have been caused for the most part by a nuclear explosion in a Soviet weapons plant.
F. Parker, an environmental scientist at Vanderbilt University, in a study for the Department of Energy, deduced that a large explosion occurred in 1958 at a nuclear fuels reprocessing plant at Kyshtym in the Ural Mountains, according to a recent report (Science, July 8, 1983). The report refers to the original interpretations of Z. Medvedev, a Soviet geneticist, who concluded that nuclear fallout has contaminated a very extensive area around Kyshtym.