Handling of radioactive waste at the Mayak facility has always raised serious concerns of environmentalists and regulatory authorities. Now it is the General Procuracy's turn - on April 11, 2005 its representative in the Urals Federal District launched an investigation into alleged dumping of radioactive waste into Techa river.

Mayak, known previously as Chelyabisk-65, is located in Ozersk city of the Chelyabinsk oblast. It was created in 1948 as the site of the first Soviet plutonium production reactor. Overall, Mayak hosted nine reactors that were producing plutonium, tritium and various isotopes. Only two reactors continue to operate at Mayak today - Ruslan and Lyudmila, which produce tritium and isotopes.

Another facility included in Mayak is the RT-1 radio-chemical plant, which reprocesses spent fuel of VVER-440 and BN-600 power reactors and that of naval and research reactors. This is now the main Mayak business - it is currently getting an approval to bring 60 tonnes of spent fuel from reactors in Ukraine and Bulgaria. Separated reactor plutonium (more than 30 tonnes of it) is stored at the facility (Mayak is also a place of another storage facility - that of weapon-grade plutonium).

It is not quite clear why prosecutors decided to go after Mayak now. In any event, it is unlikely that a criminal prosecution would do anything to change the situation with radioactive waste.