A segment of associate professor of history Kate Brown’s recent book, “Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters,” was reprinted on April 18 in the online magazine “Slate” under the headline “Life in a Real Nuclear Wasteland.”
“In pop culture, irradiated wastelands are fascinating… Part of the fantasy is surviving alone in an abandoned place no longer fit for the living, but the sad fact is that there are irradiated zones that are fully inhabited, and have been since the first years of the nuclear arms race,” Brown writes. “No one has lived longer on contaminated terrain than people in the village of Muslumovo in the southern Russian Urals located downstream from the Maiak plutonium plant, built in 1948 to produce Soviet bomb cores.”
Brown goes on to describe the conditions in Muslumovo, which often afflicted children: “hydrocephalic children, children with cerebral palsy, missing kidneys, extra fingers, anemia, fatigue, and weak immune systems.”
“[Soviet doctors] determined that radioactive isotopes weaken immune systems and damage organ tissue and arteries, causing illnesses of the circulation and digestive tracts and making people susceptible to conventional diseases long before they succumb to radiation-related,” she writes.