Sillamäe is the reason I first came to Estonia in 1998. I had written a proposal on a possible cleanup strategy earlier, in 1993 or 1994, but the Estonians had too much else to do that early in their reacquired independence to deal with Sillamäe.
But in 1998, I was invited to join the Sillamäe International Expert Reference Group, which was overseeing the planning to remediate the immense tailings pile and other radioactive waste left by Soviet minerals-processing operations.
Sillamäe was one of those Cold War secret cities, like my workplace Los Alamos. That similarity has occasioned some knowing chuckles on my visits. Sillamäe remained a closed city long after Los Alamos, though, and its work remained secret.
I’ve wondered exactly what Sillamäe’s role was in the Soviet nuclear complex. I knew that its incoming material was ore and concentrate from a number of sites in the Soviet Union. The paper given by Endel Lippmaa (co-authored by Ello Maremäe) at our NATO conference in 1998 made that clear. But what did Sillamäe produce?