The World’s Most Radioactive Places

Naturally occurring low levels of radiation are everywhere. Natural background sources include cosmic, terrestrial and internal radiation. From the sun, soil, rocks, air to the radioactive potassium-40 and carbon-14 inside our bodies, radiation is a part of our life. 

But while it’s unavoidable, there are places in the world that have had more radioactivity than usual. A place’s radioactivity could also come from radioactive contamination from man-made activities.  If radioactive materials weren’t stored or disposed of properly, contamination in air, soil and water could happen. 

In no particular order, here are some of the most radioactive sites on earth.

The Polygon, Semipalatinsk (Semey), Kazakhstan

The Polygon was the Soviet Union’s primary nuclear test site where 456 nuclear tests have been conducted, causing 340 underground and 116 atmospheric explosions. Residents of the area were kept in the dark about these tests and aside from the damage on their properties, they soon felt the effects on their health. 

After 40 years of these nuclear tests, information about radioactive contamination became public and in 1991, Kazakhstan’s government shut down the testing site. 

Today, the Polygon is largely empty but is open to one or two-day tours that require permits. Visitors are required to wear a protective suit and mask for the radioactive dust particles.

Hanford Site, Washington, USA

In the 1940s, nuclear weapons production began at Hanford which generated large amounts of radioactive and chemical wastes, both solid and liquid waste. It’s one of the largest and most expensive cleanup projects in the world. 

The current cleanup involves burying and storing wastes that may remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Aside from these, the liquid wastes stored in the underground tanks at Hanford will be transformed into a stable glass product through vitrification.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, Japan

Source: Tokyo Electric Power Co., TEPCO

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake caused a tsunami that disabled and triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. According to environmental radiologist Thomas Johnson, the radiation is so low in many areas today and the mice that lived in areas exposed to high radiation levels didn’t have any changes in their blood. However, a valley northwest was contaminated and still has relatively high radioactivity. 

Also, some of the reactors are still leaking and authorities are cooling the fuel cores with water. But to free up storage space, they’re planning to release the treated water into the Pacific Ocean. While containing traces of tritium, the regulators deemed it safe.

Chernobyl, Pripyat, Ukraine

Caused by a flawed reactor design and serious mistakes of plant operators, the 1986 Chernobyl accident released at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the environment. Acute radiation syndrome was confirmed in 134 cases and Chernobyl was the only commercial nuclear power accident with radiation-related deaths. 

After the incident, approximately 600,000 emergency workers or liquidators helped clean up the plant premises. Repositories, dams, water filtration systems and the sarcophagus encasing the entire fourth reactor were built. 

Today, radiation levels near the Chernobyl plant are within safe limits.

Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan

Between 1946 and 1968, the town of Mailuu-Suu processed 10,000 metric tons of radioactive uranium ore. Throughout the Cold War, the large mining operation produced heavily contaminated waste. More than two decades of waste made the town one of the most polluted places on Earth in 2006. 

Cleanup efforts aim to mitigate the danger of the dump sites and the risk of a catastrophe from climate change.

Radiation Monitoring in Waste Management

Monitoring plays a key role in waste management. SensaWeb monitors send radiation and location data in real-time, every TWO seconds, using multiple communication methods. Authorised staff can then view this data on the report generation and management platform, anywhere and on any device. 

The user can set whatever limits they wish on the monitor; any breach of those limits will trigger an email and text message alert to the official responsible for radiation health and safety.

Looking for area radiation monitors or personal radiation monitoring devices? Connect with us here or our email address: You can also call us at +61 415 409 467.

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