Part 2 of this series on Soviet-era “Atomgrads” focuses on those that were developed to build, service, and support nuclear power plants in the Soviet Union. Of the 12 cities listed and mapped, all but one remain active communities today. The City of Pripyat, Ukraine, was completely abandoned in 1986 due to the Chernobyl Disaster. Visaginas (formerly Sniečkus), Lithuania is hoping to move past its atomic legacy when the nuclear energy plant there is fully decommissioned.
The population of the eleven remaining Atomgrads range from approximately 8,000 residents to more than 68,000 residents with only six (6) of these ten (10) meeting the intended populations of their government designers as described in the following quote:
“An Atomgrad (Russian for “atom city”) is a small industrial city (from 30,000 to 80,000 inhabitants) designed to serve the needs of large commercial – as we would say in the West – nuclear power plants. Such cities with giant reactor parks (or rather, reactor parks with cities) emerged in the 1960s and 70s, mainly in the Western parts of the Soviet Union. With few exceptions, they were all situated amidst agrarian land- and riverscapes, which Soviet engineers and planners regarded as appropriate for the construction of nuclear power plants. The sites were not too far from industrial regions in need of electric energy, but sparsely populated. They were easily integrated into existing railway and high voltage grids, and well supplied with cooling water and plenty of “empty” space for large industrial and urban constructions.” [also referred to as Atomograds]
Below is the list of these nuclear energy Atomgrads. Any additional information, suggestions, or corrections to this list or the nuclear weapon Atomgrads identified in part 1 of this series are most welcome.
Desnogorsk, Russia (1974-present):
- Founded to provide housing for and to service the Smolensk Nuclear Power Plant.
- Estimated 2018 population of 27,771 people.
- The city’s flag honors the city’s atomic history (see above).
Enerhodar (formerly Energodar), Ukraine (1970-present):
- Founded to provide housing for and to service the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant.
- Largest nuclear power plant complex in Europe.
- The city’s flag and coat of arms hint at its atomic heritage with a bright red star/flame.
- Population of 54,490 in 2015.
Kurchatov, Kazakhstan (ca 1949-present):
- Named in honor of Soviet physicist Igor Kurchatov.
- Was once a closed city associated with the former the adjoining atomic weapon testing site located east of the city – Semipalatinsk Test Site (The Polygon) – decommissioned in 1991).
- The region and its residents continue to be adversely impacted by the radiation aftereffects of the 456 atomic/nuclear tests (340 underground and 116 above ground) that took place the vicinity between 1949 and 1989.
- Today, The Polygon is the most researched atomic testing site on the planet and the only one that is open to visitors other than the Trinity Site in New Mexico which is opened twice a year for guided tours.
- The nuclear energy facilities at Kurchatov are managed by the Kazakhstan Institute of Atomic Energy.
- Population estimated to be approximately 8,000, which along with Metsamor (listed below) is one the smallest of all the Atomgrad cities in both categories.
- The city’s coat of arms depicts its atomic heritage, but the region has seen the rise of a strong anti-nuclear movement since the mid-1980s.
Metsamor, Armenia (1969-present):
Netishyn, Ukraine (1542/1981 -present):
- Long history, but became a Soviet Atomgrad in 1981 with the start of the construction of the Khmelnitskiy Nuclear Power Plant.
- Population of 36,766 in 2019.
- Both the city’s flag and coat of arms honor Netishyn’s atomic history (see above)
Pripyat, Ukraine (1970-1986):
- Founded by the Soviet Union as the 9th Atomgrad.
- Quickly abandoned when the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Plant #4 reactor disaster took place in 1986.
- Its population was 49,360 people when the city was vacated.
- The city’s coat of arms identifies and honors its atomic legacy.
- Now a ghost town often visited by tourists wishing to visit the abandoned city.
Sosnovyi Bor, Russia (1958-present):
- Founded to provide housing for and to service both the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant and the area’s nuclear research facilities.
- Aside from the power plant, there are a number of classified research facilities in the city, including the Alexandrov Research Technological Institute.
- The city’s estimated population in 2018 was 68,013, which is the largest of the Atomograd nuclear energy cities.
- The city’s coat of arms honors the city’s atomic history (see upper right of image above).
- Access is restricted to the city to residents and those with a special permit.
Slavutych, Ukraine (1986-present): ADDED on 5/12/20
- Founded in 1986 to replace Pripyat after the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster as the primary residence for evacuated employees to service the remaining reactors Chernobyl the other reactors had been restarted.
- The city is located 45 kilometers from Pripyat and outside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
- The city’s estimated population in 2014 was 25,112 people.
- The city’s flag and coat of arms honor its atomic history by depicting an atomic star over the image of a flowing river.
- The city’s name is the historic Slavic work for the nearby Dneiper River.
Varash (formerly Kuznetsovsk), Ukraine (1973-present):
- Founded to provide housing for and to service the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant.
- Renamed to Varnish in 2016 to conform to Ukrainian law prohibiting names of Communist origin.
- The city had a population of 42,160 in 2017.
- The city’s coat of arms depicts a nuclear power plant and honors its atomic heritage (see above).
Visaginas (formerly Sniečkus), Lithuania (1975-present):
- Founded to provide housing for and to service the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant.
- Renamed after the largest village demolished in 1958 for development of the city.
- The plant employed 5,000 people when it was shut down in 2009 for safety reasons (lack of a containment building) as a requirement for joining the European Union. Decommissioning is still taking place.
- The 2016 population for the city was 19,776.
- Visaginas is sister city to nine (9) other cities in Eastern Europe.
Yuzhnoukrainsk (formerly Iuzhnoukraiinsk), Ukraine (1976-present):
- Founded to provide housing for and to service the Yuzhnoukrainsk (South Ukraine) Nuclear Power Station.
- The city had a population of 40,348 in 2015.
- The city’s flag and its coat of arms honor its atomic history (see above).
Zarechnyi, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia (1955-present):
- Founded to provide housing for and to service the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station (see photo below).
- The interior of the sunflower shown of the city’s flag and coat of arms hint at its atomic heritage.
- Population estimated to be 27,595 in 2018.
- Midnight in Chernobyl – https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Midnight-in-Chernobyl/Adam-Higginbotham/9781501134630
- en.wikipedia.org or en.wikimedia.org for each city flag and coat of arms