The Southern Urals in Russia was contaminated by radioactive discharges into the Techa River (1949-1956), the Kyshtym accident (1957), and the current releases and discharges from the Mayak Nuclear Materials Production Complex. In this paper, the consequences of radioactive contamination of the Ural region are analyzed. The current content of 90Sr in the components of food chains is as follows (Bq kg-1 wet weight): potatoes, 0.2-6.7; grain, 0.5-12.6; milk, 0.2-6.3; beef, 0.2-1.7; lake water, 0.12-1.0; river water, 0.2-8.5; fish, 7480; mushrooms, 400-1,100; and berries, 700-16,000. The content of 137Cs is as follows: potatoes, 0.5-3.8; grain, 0.3-2.91. milk, 0.2-4.5; beef, 0.3-2.6; lake and river water, 0.002-0.019; fish, 2-32; mushrooms, 110-1,600; and berries, 150. A major fraction of the dose to humans comes from the consumption of local food products, including natural ones, which have higher contamination levels than agricultural products. The average annual dose rates in contaminated areas are (0.5-4) x 10-4 SV y-1, which is lower by a factor of 102_104 than in the periods of "acute" exposure (1950-1951 and 1957-1958). Natural organisms received very high doses up to 200-800 Gy resulting from radioactive discharges into the Techa River and the radiation accident in 1957. In all cases, including the "acute" exposure followed by the chronic irradiation, the doses to biota were by a factor of 10_103 higher than those to humans.
(C)1998Health Physics Society