Skip to comments.CHERNOBYL - INVISIBLE DEATH (Chernobyl' - Nevidimaya Smert')
Posted on 04/26/2005 6:28:32 PM PDT by struwwelpeter
The experiment started on Friday, April 25th, 1986 in the third reactor block of the Chernobyl atomic energy station, located about 100 kilometers north of Kiev (now Kyiv, Ukraine). It had been permitted to shut off the emergency cooling system in order to perform a series of tests. Nonetheless, the engineers and technicians servicing the 3rd reactor were surprised that it did not behave normally, but began to run out of control. The temperature rapidly rose in the reactor, and attempts to lower it were in vain. A fire started in the core.
Early the next day there were two explosions. The thick metal vault surroundingthe reactor blew open, and the concrete safety containment vessel broke apart as well. Almost 180 tons of molten uranium was now open to the environment, and the radiation emitted was equivalent to 1500 Hiroshima bombs. But the true measure of the catastrophy was not known until much later.
For three days the Soviet government made no official declaration, hoping that nothing bad had happened and that the disaster could be kept secret. For three days the world was kept at bay. On April 30th, workers at the Swedish Forsmark atomic energy station, located far away on the Baltic coast, detected massive amounts of nuclear radiation. They were stunned that the contamination was coming not from their reactors, but from a cloud which had arrived from the east. Alarms soon went off all over Western Europe. Where did this cloud of contamination come from? There was only one answer - the east, from the Soviet Union, which maintained the world's largest nuclear reactors. Increased environmental radiation was measured as far away as Japan and the US, and scientists determined that the center of the unknown nuclear contamination was located just north of Kiev.
And during these long days 180 tons of molten uranium burned out of control at the Chernobyl AES. It burned in the open air, and no one knew what to do about it. Put out the fire? Bury the damaged reactor block? Or evacuate the population?
In Kiev a panic started. People tried to leave to city, or simply closed all the windows and hid indoors, only venturing outside when absolutely necessary. Only then did the government begin to act: it started to collect scientists, specialists, and physicians, and began to look for a way out of the situation. The whole nation was on edge. Help was offered from foreign governments. During the first days of extinguishing the reactor fire, thirty-two died and two hundred were hospitalized from radiation sickness. It became known that 200 thousand square kilometers around Chernobyl was contaminated to such a large extent that 100 thousand people living in this area had to be evacuated. Domestic and wild animals were also located in this area, as well as birds, but no plan was formulated on their behalf. The entire area was declared to be a contaminated zone, not fit for occupation for several decades.
Here is how a resident from a village near Chernobyl described the disaster: "April 26th was a Saturday, a warm, sunny day. Our next door neighbor went up on his roof to sunbathe. But he was only up there for a few minutes, came down, and said that this morning the sun was terribly warm. And his body was soon very red, and later covered with blisters as if he'd been burned. We were very surprised. What a strange sun! Late we decided to go up on the roof together and check it out. Here we noticed that over the Chernobyl station there was a bright glow, as if another sun had risen there. Something was burning over there, but what? The reactor block? The evening of that same day my neighbor became very ill. He began to vomit, became feverish, and they took him to a clinic right away. Only on the 27th was there a radio broadcast about a fire at the station, recommending that everyone stay indoors."
Various and sundry vehicles rushed to the site of the catastrophy, mostly military - armored vehicles and bulldozers. It was necessary to bury the burning reactor, but the biggest problem was that even inside these vehicles, humans could not stay close to the reactor for more than seventy seconds. Another sixty seconds in the reactor's proximity was a sure death sentence. In order to prevent loss of life, the engineers built on-site remote-controlled bulldozers which were used to construct a breastwork of concrete, sand, and rocks. At the same time from above huge cargo helicopters dropped tons of cement and lead shot. Day and night miners dug an underground tunnel which led under the reactor. It had been decided to entomb the third reactor in a concrete envelope, to build around it an enternal sarcophagus.
At the same time began the decontamination of apartment buildings and whole streets. Hundreds of street cleaning machines and fire trucks pumped water to wash down the contaminated dust. Thousands were required to leave their homes and move to other cities and villages. The genie which had left its bottle carried with it incalcuable misfortunes for not just the Soviet Union, but for Western Europe as well.
The radioactive cloud, moving across Europe, poisoned the land, plants, and animals in many places. In the Scandanavian countries it was necessary to slaughter 40 thousand domestic animals. Thirty thousand sheep were slaughtered in north-west England. Thousands of tons of German milk were determined to be contaminated and dumped.
Foreign doctors and specialists who have worked on the disaster calculate that during the previous decade (1986-1996) there has been a marked increase in cancer cases. At a minimum, the count of victims is about 75 thousand people. Two American professors, John Gofman and Karl Morgan, predicted that for the next 70 years about a half-million "extra" people will die of cancer.
As became clear much later, the main reason for the explosions and fires were mistakes, occurring during the experiment being performed on the third reactor block, when its output was cut to 7% of normal. It turned out that the control gauges at the atomic energy station were not prepared for the shut down of the reactor.
On May 7th the temperature of the reactor was stabilized, but not until November 30th was the concrete sarcophagus completed. Three hundred tons of concrete and six thousand tons of various metals went into its construction.
In April of 1991 the Soviet scientist Vladimir Chernyshenko reported that as a result of the disaster at Chernobyl, it was not 32 deaths as officially reported, but rather 7-10 thousand. And the majority of these were miners and military servicemembers who fought the aftermath of the catastrophy.
Unfortunately, no one has accurate statistics, no one counted the number of people who to this very day are suffering the effects of the Chernobyl accident. Chernyshenko noted that at the time the Soviet government gave MAGATEh incorrect data, that victims of these emission were not just adults, but children who had damage to their thyroid glands. At the end of the XXth century various countries in Europe have taken in Chernobyl children for treatment. The visible catastrophy has ended, but its invisible effects are as yet unknown.
Is there any relationship to this nuclear accident in 1986 and the collapse of the Soviet Union?
The aftermath of Chernobyl wasn't nearly as horrific as was expected. It's really surprised the doom and gloom crowd.
Elena's pictures are a must-see...
It could have been a triple-whammy: Chernobyl, the Armenian earthquake, and the Admiral Nakhimov... or perhaps the actions of Pope John Paul II in Poland, or Ronald Reagan's Star Wars spent them into oblivion, or their socialist economy finally hit the Kondratiev winter cycle.
I was stationed in Germany when the Berlin Wall 'fell', and kept a scrapbook of clippings. There was an incident in Budapest, a bunch of East Germans somehow got into the West German embassy there, and Hungary for some reason let them go to Austria. Then Hungary decided that any East Germans who wanted to go to Austria could do so, and even demobilized a stretch of border.
Lots of East German Trabbis and Wartburgs started showing up all over West Germany, West Germans were actually buying their Ossi brethren beer and champagne (seems like science fiction nowadays).
Then lots of demonstrations in Leipzig, Dresden, "Die Mauer mussen weg!" (The wall must go), and it did.
Once East Germany caved, all the rest followed. Romanians just up and shot their dictator, Poland, Hungary, and the Baltic states went to the streets declaring themselves free...
Gorby tried to hold it together, but their was a putsch, Gorby ended up stuck in his dacha near Yalta, Yeltsin climbed up on a tank and yelled to the soldiers to go home, since Russia had seen enough history for one century.
... Whatever it took, however it happened, thank God.
Da. The tardy, lackidaisical, whatever-you-want-to-call-it responed of Moscow to this accident is widely credited with helping to destroy whatever vestiges of credibility that the CP-USSR had at the time.
I expect to be in Ukraine in the summer. I'll pursue this question then (I'll be at a nuclear station of a completely different design than Chernobyl).
Thanks for giving me a diversion for my trip!
Thanks for your enthusiasm. We need more that four per state!
"In Ukrainian language ( where we don't like to say "the") Chernobyl is the name of a grass, wormwood (absinth). This word scares the holy bejesus out of people here. Maybe part of the reason for that among religious people is because the Bible mentions Wormwood in the book of the revelatons - which fortells the end of the world.... "Ah, the old 'Chernobyl' (chornobilka) is wormwood and is foretold in the Bible.
"REV 8:11 "And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter."This online Ukrainian Bible says, however:
"REV 8:11 À imennya zori tiy Polin. I stala tretina vodi, yak polin, i bagato z lyudey povmirali z vodi, bo zgirkla vona..."No Chernobyl there, nor in this online Russian Bible:
"REV 8:11 Imya sey zvezde polyn'; i tret'ya chast' vod sdelalas' polyn'yu, i mnogie iz lyudey umerli ot vod, potomu chto oni stali gor'ki. "
Which AEhS are you going to? Zaporozh'e?
You'd love this article: Soldiers of the Chelyabinsk Chernobyl
"As a result of the accident, more than 124,000 people received lethal overdoses of radiation, dying over an extended period ranging from days to years. In the spring of 1963, as if to punish mankind even further, the region suffered a severe drought. Shallow, boggy Lake Karachai completely dried out and a duststorm blew particles from the lake's highly contaminated bottom all over the area, adding to the eastern Ural radioactive catastrophy another 40,000 victims. These disasters were later known collectively as the Khyshtym tragedy, and caused more casualties than even Chernobyl."
Socialism is such a success, ain't it?
Russians have always been their own worst enemies. Even Hitler was a slacker compared to the Soviets.
Bump for the Chernobyl motorcycle pics! You guys beat me to it.
South Ukraine, Mykolaiev oblast (?) (I don't pretend to understand the Ukrainian political system).
Driving outside of Kyiv (and inside it for that matter) is real white-knuckled. The roads are in awful repair, with lots of dare-devils in all makes of cars - from air-cooled Zaporozhets (Corvair) to ultra-delux Hummers. No insurance, just a belief in sud'ba (fate). A high-up in the US embassy was killed on one of the roads a few years ago.
The only thing worse is flying.
Careful at the airport - on the way out the customs like to find reasons to steal things, even the money in your pocket. Fill out and keep the declarations and all paperwork for cash you receive. If you see a big, blonde guy named Vanya at customs, punch him in the nose for me ;-)
If your nuclear plant in in Nikolaev oblast', then it's probably the Yuzhno-Ukrainskaya (South Ukrainian) AEhS in the village of Yuzhnoukrainsk, about 60 miles from Nikolaev.
You probably know all this stuff, already:
South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant Yuzhnoukrainsk, Ukraine
The South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant (SUNPP) is located approximately 400 kilometers south of Kiev, Ukraine. The plant has three operating VVER- 1000 nuclear reactors. Units 1 and 2 are Model 302, and Unit 3 is a Model 320. A fourth unit was canceled due to lack of funding. Construction was started in the early 1970s. Unit 1 was brought on-line in 1982, Unit 2 on-line in 1986, and Unit 3 in 1989. These three units generate about 25 percent of the nuclear generated power for Ukraine.
The reactors are fueled with low-enriched uranium fuel. Spent fuel is stored in fuel storage pools in the reactor buildings for many years until they are sufficiently cool for removal for shipment to a fuel reprocessing plant or to an alternate fuel storage area. Currently, a spent fuel storage building is being constructed on-site for dry storage in concrete casks.
Figure 1. SUNPP site layout
That place looks familiar!
Ping to a Cool link on post 2!