[FPSPACE] Russian TV investigates space fuel pollution in central southern Russia
Fri, 8 Dec 2000 12:49:10 EST
Russian TV investigates space fuel pollution in central southern Russia
NTV International, Moscow, in Russian 1930 gmt 6 Dec 00
Russian NTV television has claimed that Russian military and space
institutions are still unwilling to acknowledge there is a link between
illnesses and heptyl rocket fuel which comes down unspent near launch pads
and missile bases. The problem seems to be particularly bad in Altay
Republic, in southern Russia north of Kazakhstan, where it is claimed a
quarter the territory is affected by debris or unspent fuel from rockets. The
following are excerpts from a report by Russian NTV International television
on 6th December. Subheadings have been inserted.
[Presenter] Hello. You are watching the Top Secret program. I am Andrey
Yegorshev. Russia not only remains a space superpower but it plans to expand
its activities in space. However, information on the negative consequences of
those activities for people and the environment is still
hidden from the general public. Experts from the Defense Ministry and the
Russian Aerospace Agency, the only ones involved in the ecological monitoring
of space launches, have refused to talk to us, thus violating articles 41 and
42 of the constitution. But we carried out our own investigation to show the
scale of the socioecological catastrophe which has already happened.
Russia is a dump for space refuse
[Correspondent] Until recently one could talk openly only about the
pollution of the space around the earth. But the levels of pollution on earth
itself are much higher. A total of 20m ha of our country's territory is set
aside for falling rocket stages. It is officially admitted that 20
regions suffer as a result of space activities. Other countries launch their
rockets above oceans and that is where the stages of their rockets drop. In
those countries it is a must to inform all those at sea where the rocket
stages are expected to fall. But Russian citizens have no such privilege, as
[Daniil Tabayev, the chairman of the State Council of Altay Republic,
north of Kazakhstan] The majority of launches are not mentioned in the mass
media and we do not know anything about them. I mean the launches carried out
by the Russian Defense Ministry and also some commercial launches involving
foreign countries. Those launches are most harmful and no-one is really
responsible for them...
Rocket fuel is highly toxic
[Correspondent] The rocket stages contain highly toxic fuel which forms
poisonous smog when it approaches the earth and spreads to very large areas.
As a result, there is not only environment pollution, which increases every
time this happens, but also the destruction of the local population.
[Mariya Cherkasova, director of a center for independent ecological
programs] Sometimes rocket stages explode during the fall, which is regarded
as normal, spreading solid fuel all over the place. And later children and
hunters collect this fuel and use it to start bonfires. An amazing picture
was taken in Archangel Region. It shows a woman using rocket fuel to start up
a typical Russian stove. You can see a huge flame on the spade which she is
moving around inside the stove. And there is also heptyl, a liquid rocket
fuel, of course which is highly toxic...
"Yellow" babies born in risk areas
We began our activities in Altay by studying the problem of yellow
children. Women started to give birth to babies with yellow skin. Their skin
was the same color as an orange. When they were born, they looked normal but
in a couple of days they turned yellow as soon as breast-feeding
began. It turned out that they were affected by rocket fuel. And only blood
transfusion can save them. I know places, regions in Russia where blood
transfusion among the newly born children is a normal procedure...
[Correspondent] But the situation at cosmodromes is even worse. Those
dealing with rockets, both professional officers and conscripts, are affected
by the poisonous fuel. Viktor Shulgin saw all the time while serving as a
medical assistant in Plesetsk that the levels of [word indistinct] of heptyl
were two or four times above the norm. And even eight times on one occasion
in spring, when the snow was melting....
[Correspondent] According to the Military Space Forces, six per cent of
booster-rocket launches in the past 25 years have suffered accidents. For
experts, this is a very high and dangerous figure. If a rocket explodes
during the first few seconds of its flight, its fuel simply cannot burn in
It is not accidental that both the military and space departments are
still unwilling to acknowledge that there is a link between the negative
effects of heptyl and the illnesses experienced by rocket staff and people
living in areas where rocket stages come down or near launch pads and missile
Altay Republic has bad space rocket pollution
The gem of Asia. Altay-khan. The legendary land of clear water. The
mighty Altay... A quarter of the republic's territory is now polluted by
rockets stages that have separated. But what is really sad is that it is also
polluted by unused rocket fuel... However, in addition to space showers Altay
also has rocket and technological showers. At the end of May 1997, there was
an explosion not far from the village of Kuray, southwest of the republic.
The Kuray basin was under a brown cloud for a whole three days after it.
Local people developed all sorts of unusual illnesses. Six women
in the same village had miscarriages over a period of three months and women
started to give birth to children with yellow skin. People say there is a
direct link between the tragedy and the testing of so-called low-flying
gadgets resembling rockets... Have there been any similar cases? I mean those
[Yuriy Robertus, director of the Altay ecology institute] It is
difficult to say whether they were tests, but there were several other such
instances and they still go on. There are enough witnesses and enough
evidence to prove this work continues. It seems it has been going on for
while. The consequences of this work seem to be rather -
[Correspondent] - serious.
[Robertus] Yes, serious. But it is too early to talk about it...
[Video shows rocket launches, a helicopter in flight, metal objects of
various shapes and sizes on the ground, residential houses, local people and
1996 footage of a program on Plesetsk].