The Mayak explosion was kept a secret from the international community for decades, despite releasing 310 gigajoules of energy. It ranked just below the Chernobyl accident in terms of seriousness, releasing 20 MCi of radioactivity. Mayak had historically been one of the worst nuclear polluters in Russia, with waste routinely dumped into local lakes and accidental discharges almost commonplace. As a result, the province of Chelyabinsk has gained a reputation as being one of the most toxic places in the world. Lake Karachay was even covered with a concrete sarcophagus to keep radioactive sediment from being released.
The Soviet Union took almost no steps to mitigate the dangers posed by Mayak. In fact, a significant amount of waste remains at the facility, which was shut down in 1990. The Russian nuclear program has served as an example to the world of how dangerous the improper handling and processing of nuclear waste can be. Frequent accidents at Soviet nuclear facilities have also illustrated the need for comprehensive safety programs and policies to be put into place and followed to the letter at every power station and processing plant.