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The dangers of Chernobyl nuclear site being turned into a tourism mecca

The grounds remain coated with plutonium, cesium, strontium and americium — radionuclides (atoms that emit radiation) that could pose potentially serious health risks to those who touch or ingest them. Some areas are more radioactive, and therefore more dangerous, than others.

“Even though the accident occurred over 33 years ago it remains one of the most radiologically contaminated places on earth.”

Chernobyl tourists should avoid plant life, and especially the depths of the forests.

Those areas were not cleaned in the aftermath of the disaster and remain highly contaminated by radiation. Research has showed that the fungus, moss and mushrooms growing there are radioactive. Eating or drinking from the area is not safe.

Those who stay on the paved pathways, which officials cleaned, are much less likely to absorb harmful toxins.

Ukraine wants Chernobyl to be a tourist trap. But scientists warn: Don’t kick up dust. https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2019/07/12/ukraine-wants-chernobyl-be-tourist-trap-scientists-warn-dont-kick-up-dust/?utm_term=.5e82b547ceaf  By Katie Mettler, July 12 2019

The tourists first started flocking to Chernobyl nearly 10 years ago, when fans of the video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. wanted to see firsthand the nuclear wasteland they’d visited in virtual reality.

Next came those whose curiosity piqued when in 2016 the giant steel dome known as the New Safe Confinement was slid over the sarcophagus encasing nuclear reactor number four, which exploded in April 1986, spewed radiation across Europe and forced hundreds of thousands to flee from their homes.

Then in May, HBO’s “Chernobyl” miniseries aired, and tourism companies reported a 30 to 40 percent uptick in visitors to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, abandoned and eerily frozen in time.

Now the Ukrainian government — capitalizing on the macabre intrigue — has announced that Chernobyl will become an official tourist site, complete with routes, waterways, checkpoints and a “green corridor” that will place it on the map with other “dark tourism” destinations.

“We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a visit to Chernobyl this week. “Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine’s brand. It’s time to change it.”

Zelensky, who was inaugurated in May, signed a decree July 10 to kickstart the Chernobyl Development Strategy, which the president hopes will bring order to the 19-mile Exclusion Zone that has become a hotbed for corruption, trespassing and theft. At the nuclear facility and in the nearby town of Pripyat, wildlife has returned and now roams freely. Flora and fauna grow up around decaying homes, playgrounds and an amusement park. Letters, dinner tables and baby dolls remain where their owners abandoned them 33 years ago.

Radioactive dust still coats it all.

“Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster, where there is a real ‘ghost town,’” Zelensky said during his visit. “We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists.”

Though exploiting a historical space like Chernobyl could infuse Ukraine’s economy with tourism dollars and motivate developers to revive the sleepy towns surrounding the “dead zone,” there are significant downsides, experts say.

[Thanks to HBO, more tourists are flocking to the eerie Chernobyl nuclear disaster site]

The grounds remain coated with plutonium, cesium, strontium and americium — radionuclides (atoms that emit radiation) that could pose potentially serious health risks to those who touch or ingest them. Some areas are more radioactive, and therefore more dangerous, than others.

“Chernobyl was the worst nuclear accident in human history,” said Jim Beasley, an associate professor at the University of Georgia who has been studying wildlife in the Exclusion Zone since 2012. “Even though the accident occurred over 33 years ago it remains one of the most radiologically contaminated places on earth.”

More than 30 people were killed in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, and officials are still debating the full extent of the longterm death toll in Ukraine and nearby countries where people grew sick with cancer and other illnesses.

The World Health Organization estimates total cancer deaths at 9,000, far less than a Belarusian study that put the death toll at 115,000, reported Reuters.

Today, radiation levels inside the Exclusion Zone vary widely from location to location, said Dr. T. Steen, who teaches microbiology and immunology at Georgetown’s School of Medicine and oversees radiation research in organisms at nuclear disaster sites. Because of that, she advises anyone visiting to be educated and cautious while inside the Exclusion Zone, and to limit time spent there.

“The longer you’re exposed, the more that future impact is,” she said.

She advises visitors to the Exclusion Zone to wear clothes and shoes they are comfortable throwing away. If they’re going to be touching or disturbing anything, she recommends a mask and gloves. Most importantly, Steen says, Chernobyl tourists should avoid plant life, and especially the depths of the forests.

Those areas were not cleaned in the aftermath of the disaster and remain highly contaminated by radiation. Research has showed that the fungus, moss and mushrooms growing there are radioactive. Eating or drinking from the area is not safe.

Those who stay on the paved pathways, which officials cleaned, are much less likely to absorb harmful toxins.

Generally speaking, Chernobyl can be safe, Steen said, “but it depends on how people behave.”

And so far, the accounts of tourists behaving badly are abundant.

Timothy Mousseau, a biologist and University of South Carolina professor, has been studying the ecological and evolutionary consequences of radioactive contaminants on wildlife and organisms at Chernobyl for 20 years. He just recently returned from his annual, month-long trip to the Exclusion Zone and said he was shocked to see 250 tourists in street clothes wandering Pripyat.

Some hopped in bumper cars at the abandoned amusement park there to take selfies.

“Part of the reason people don’t think twice about it is because there is this highly organized tourism operation,” Mousseau said. “A lot of people don’t give it a second thought.”

He is concerned that the government’s tourism campaign could only make that worse.

“The negative aspects that are being completely ignored are the health and safety issues of bringing this many people, exposing this many people to what is a small risk, albeit a significant risk, to this kind of contamination,” Mousseau said. “The more traffic there is, the most dust there is, and the dust here is contaminated.”

[We’re in the age of the overtourist. You can avoid being one of them.]

But Mousseau’s worries, and the anxieties of his colleagues, extend beyond health factors.

For decades, biologists, ecologists and medical researchers have been studying the mostly undisturbed expanse that is the Exclusion Zone. They’ve studied DNA mutations in plants and insects, birds and fish. As larger mammals, like moose, wolves and fox, have slowly re-occupied the surrounding forests, biologists have searched for clues about the ways short-term and long-term radiation exposure have altered their health.

Scientifically, there is no place on earth like Chernobyl. Beasley, who studies wolves there, calls it a “living laboratory.” An influx of humans — especially reckless ones — could destroy it.

“This is really the only accessible place on the planet where this kind of research can be conducted at a scale both spatial and temporal that allows for important scientific discovery,” Mousseau said. “Given increased use of radiation in technology and medicine, in going to Mars and space, we need to know more about radiation and its effects on biology and organisms.”

“And Chernobyl provides a unique laboratory to do this kind of research,” he said.

Tourism’s negative footprint in the Exclusion Zone is not theoretical, either.

They are leaving behind trash, rummaging through abandoned homes and buildings and, in Mousseau’s experience, stealing his research equipment. Cameras he has hidden in the depths of the most radioactive parts of the zone to capture the wildlife he studies have been vandalized or gone missing, he said.

It’s something that absolutely astounds me,” he said.

Theoretically, more government oversight at Chernobyl could help curb this kind of interference, especially if a financial investment in the zone will help preserve the ghost town there and bring in more guards and checkpoints to patrol who comes and goes.

None of that will prevent tourists from disturbing Chernobyl’s spirit.

“I think it is important to not lose sight of the fact that Chernobyl represents an area of tremendous human suffering,” Beasley said, “as hundreds of thousands of people were forever displaced from their homes or otherwise impacted by the accident.”

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July 15, 2019 Posted by | culture and arts, environment, Reference, safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Chernobyl’s $1.7B nuclear confinement shelter finally revealed

Chernobyl’s $1.7B nuclear confinement shelter revealed after taking 9 years to complete,  By Paulina Dedaj | Fox News  4 July 19  A new structure built to confine the Chernobyl reactor at the center of the world’s worst nuclear disaster was previewed for the media Tuesday.

Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine exploded and burned April 26, 1986.

The complex construction effort to secure the molten reactor’s core and 200 tons of highly radioactive material has taken 9 years to complete under the auspices of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was built to cover the temporary concrete and steel Shelter Structure, which was built immediately after the disaster, but which had begun to deteriorate in the 1990s.

The structure itself cost 1.5 billion euros (almost $1.7 billion) and the entire shelter project cost 2.2 billion euros. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development managed a fund with contributions from 45 countries, the European Union and 715 million euros in the bank’s own resources.

The shelter is the largest moveable land-based structure ever built, with a span of 843 feet and a total weight of over 36,000 tonnes.

“This was a very long project,” said Balthasar Lindauer, director of the bank’s Nuclear Safety Department. He noted that preliminary studies began in 1998 and the contract for the structure was placed in 2007.

He said Ukraine was a big contributor, contributing 100 million euros in cash along with expertise and personnel. ……. https://www.foxnews.com/world/chernobyl-nuclear-confinement-shelter-revealed

July 8, 2019 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

The Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe is not over.

You’ve seen the TV series, now understand the Chernobyl catastrophe is far from over.  https://www.smh.com.au/national/you-ve-seen-the-tv-series-now-understand-the-chernobyl-catastrophe-is-far-from-over-20190625-p5217u.html By Helen Caldicott, 4 July 19   It is 33 years since the radioactive accident at Chernobyl. The HBO miniseries Chernobyl has re-awakened interest in this dreadful moment in history. But Chernobyl is by no means over. And with commentators once again flagging the idea of overturning Australia’s long-standing opposition to a home-grown nuclear industry – and even suggesting our own nuclear weapons – it is timely to revisit its consequences.

The Chernobyl death toll is highly contentious, from the absurdly low 31 following the initial blast trauma to 4000 (the conclusion of a joint consortium of the United Nations and the governments of UkraineBelarus, and Russia in 2005 and 2006) to 93,000 (Greenpeace’s prediction in 2006).
However, there is the study Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009, which covers more than 5000 medical and epidemiological papers from the Ukraine, Russia, Europe and Britain. It was authored by three noted scientists: Russian biologist Dr Alexey Yablokov, former environmental adviser to the Russian president; Dr Alexey Nesterenko, a biologist and ecologist in Belarus; and Dr Vassili Nesterenko, a physicist and, at the time of the accident, director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

Their book – while the subject of both positive and negative reviews, and not peer-reviewed by Western standards – concludes some 985,000 people died prematurely, mainly of cancer, as a result of the Chernobyl accident. Despite its limitations, it “is a treasure trove of data that if taken as a whole is overwhelming”, according to the noted evolutionary biologist Tim Mousseau.

Millions were initially exposed to very high doses of radiation from short-lived isotopes. But the report indicates that medical effects will continue to impact millions of exposed people because 40 per cent of the European land mass is polluted , and will remain contaminated for thousands of years by long-lived isotopes – plutonium 239, 238 and 241, americium 241, cobalt 60 and technetium 132. Parts of Turkey and Britain also received high fallout, which affected their crops and livestock.

A large body of literature now records the medical impact. In Belarus and nearby regions, 90 per cent of children were once healthy, now only 20 per cent, says the Chernobyl study. A million children still live in highly radioactive areas.

The study reports ongoing abnormalities of the immune system led to increased cases of bacterial and fungal infections, chronic joint and bone pain, osteoporosis, periodontal disease and fractures. Strontium 90 and plutonium concentrate in bones and teeth.

Premature ageing with heart attacks, hypertension, strokes and type 2 diabetes and alopecia are recorded in children. Multiple endocrine abnormalities including diabetes, hypo and hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease, as well as menstrual disorders, have increased as cesium concentrates in endocrine organs and cardiac muscle.

Intellectual retardation was recorded in babies who were in utero at the time of the accident. A noted embryologist, Wladimir Werteleki, recorded high incidences of microcephaly and microphthalmia in babies and severe neural tube defects in the Polissia region of the Ukraine related to very high levels of cesium 137 and 134 in the food eaten by pregnant women. Increased incidence of congenital cataracts, retinal pathology and adult cataracts occur in many European countries.

The Chernobyl study indicated that thyroid carcinoma arose two to four years after the accident, in Belarus increasing to 7000 cases by 2000 and, despite surgery, 30 per cent were aggressive and had metastasised. Congenital thyroid cancer in newborns also was documented.

Increases in a wide range of cancers – including stomach, colon, bladder, pancreas, breast and leukemia – are still recorded in the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Germany, the UK, Greece, Rumania and Europe.

Many thousands of children have been born with severe teratogenic deformities and homes around the Chernobyl area house hundreds of these children.

The Chernobyl study also found that of the 830,000 mainly young men known as ‘‘liquidators’’ – who were recruited from all over the Soviet Union to help clean up the contaminated area and were exposed to massive doses of radiation –112,000 to 125,000 died within the first 19 years.

Tim Mousseau has also conducted surveys of wildlife and birds in the exclusion zones, revealing genetic and chromosomal abnormalities, sterility in male swallows, small brains, tumours, and other anatomical abnormalities.

A huge and ill-informed debate persists about how many people have died as a result of Chernobyl. Sadly, the World Health Organisation has supported the International Atomic Energy Agency, which promotes nuclear power, in the estimate of about 4000 deaths related to Chernobyl.

Much of the data is more than a decade old. There is an urgent need for further extensive epidemiological studies on the exposed populations in Russia, the Ukraine, Europe, England, Turkey and other countries, and for treatment and support to be instituted for the many thousands of victims now and in the future. Because the long-lived radiological contamination of the soil and subsequent bio-concentration of the radioactive isotopes in the food chain will continue to poison children and adults for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Dr Helen Caldicott is an Australian physician, author and founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which was among the international groups of doctors awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | children, environment, health, history, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Huge expenses of the project to cover the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor 

Inside new £1,300,000,000 structure built over destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor    https://metro.co.uk/2019/07/03/inside-new-1300000000-structure-built-destroyed-chernobyl-nuclear-reactor-10106545/     Georgia Diebelius [excellent photos]  3 Jul 2019   Anew structure built to confine the Chernobyl reactor at the centre of the world’s worst nuclear disaster was previewed for the media yesterday. Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine exploded and burned April 26, 1986. The complex construction effort to secure the molten reactor’s core and 200 tons of highly radioactive material has taken nine years to complete under the control of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The structure itself cost £1.5 billion and the entire shelter project cost £2.2 billion. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development managed a fund with contributions from 45 countries, the European Union and £715 million in the bank’s own resources.‘

This was a very long project,’ said Balthasar Lindauer, director of the bank’s Nuclear Safety Department

He said Ukraine was a big contributor, contributing €100 million in cash along with expertise and personnel. Journalists were invited to view the new safe confinement shelter ahead of the handover to Ukrainian authorities.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Ukraine, wastes | Leave a comment

Chernobyl military survivor reveals secrets

Secrets of Chernobyl spill out more than three decades after the nuclear disaster, By SERGEI L. LOIKO  sergei.l.loiko@gmail.com, JUN 30, 2019| CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE  [good photographs on original]

The measuring device was sounding off loudly on that night 33 years ago, not because of the convoy’s cargo — 30 antiaircraft missiles, three of them tipped with nuclear warheads — but because of where and when the post-midnight parade had kicked off: at the Chernobyl air defense missile base just three days after the explosion of a reactor at the adjacent Chernobyl nuclear power plant that had sent enough radioactivity spewing into the air that it at one point had the potential of poisoning much of Eastern Europe.

Chershnev knew that the missiles, the trucks and his crew were badly contaminated and that they should not have been ordered to drive through a city of more than 2 million people. But there was no bypass road at the time — and orders were orders. What Chershnev didn’t know in the early hours of the morning of April 30, 1986, was that a radioactive cloud had already caught up with them and blanketed the city on the eve of its annual May Day festivities.

The reaction to HBO’s recent “Chernobyl” miniseries has been almost as far-reaching as the initial tragedy and has spurred a daily line of buses packed with foreign tourists at the gate of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which extends for 20 miles around the plant. But Chernobyl still boasts secrets more than three decades later, including the story of Chershnev and his charges — a saga of dysfunction and disregard for human life that lays bare conditions in the waning years of the Soviet Union.

When the red alert sounded, Chershnev, then the deputy commander and chief engineer of the Kiev Air Defense Brigade, was responsible for the readiness of weaponry and equipment at the Chernobyl antiaircraft battalion’s base in a massive in-ground bunker with 10-inch-thick, rusty metal doors.

These days, the site also features a 10-yard-long missile launcher’s towing trolley, half-buried in silver moss, the former walls of a second smaller bunker surrounded by dense pines and a vast carcass of barracks with missing floorboards, dilapidated walls and a mural of a Soviet soldier cheerfully calling upon comrades to defend the motherland.

Seventy officers and men — ill-informed, unprotected and exposed to deadly radiation — were housed at the site along with the missiles back in 1986, under orders to arduously protect and save the weapons and structures rather than themselves.

The site included the nuclear plant and the Chernobyl over-the-horizon early warning radar station, a 500-meter-long, 150-meter tall installation designed to detect strategic missiles launched from the United States. The now-rusty structure still towers over the area and is a major tourist attraction, a frightening monument to the Cold War that even the complex‘s normally fearless marauders have not attempted to cut into pieces to sell as scrap metal outside the zone, a routine business in these parts.

In the aftermath of the 1986 explosion — as the government evacuated more than 50,000 residents from the town of Pripyat, including the families of nuclear plant workers, plus more than 75,000 residents of nearby villages — the men of the Chernobyl air defense unit stayed put until they received fresh orders.

“Three days after the explosion, on April 29, I arrived at the base with 30 heavy trucks and we loaded on them 30 missiles from the storage hangars,” recalls Chershnev, who headed the evacuation effort. “Twenty-seven of them were conventional, but the other three were tactical rockets with nuclear warheads. We were to take them to a facility outside Boryspil, near Kiev.

“After that, we were ordered to go back and salvage the remaining equipment that could be dismantled.”

The men traveled — without protective gear — for 14 hours at speeds lower than 20 mph as radiation from the explosion leaked into the air.

Chershnev admits he knew the dangers but says he was a career officer and could not disobey orders………….

When Chershnev got back from that trip, he repeated the ritual of burning his uniform.

“No one in the world knows that we existed and what we went through,” he said. “And all for nothing. All so stupid and futile. We didn’t save anyone. We didn’t clean up anything.

“All those I personally know and have kept track of all these years are either badly sick like myself or dead by now. My driver who accompanied me on all the convoys was discharged and died at 28. My fellow deputy brigade commander, … who was also dealing with contaminated equipment, died [in 1995] of cancer. Warrant Officer Petro Pozyura went blind. And so on and so forth. I have a heart ailment and every year spend a couple of weeks in hospital.”

The cardiologist who has been treating Chershnev for the last few years once asked him to retrieve his Chernobyl-era medical records from the military. But Chershnev was told that the records no longer exist.

“Here I am on a pension with a monthly Chernobyl health compensation of about $11 a month,” he concluded bitterly. “It is not even enough to buy a bottle of decent vodka, let alone medicines.”

The official death toll related to the explosion is listed as 39, but out of the officially registered 3.2 million people who were exposed to radiation in Ukraine alone, 1.3 million have died in the last 33 years, said Vladimir Kobchik, a former Chernobyl cleanup worker who is now a leader of a group that aims to protect the rights of fellow survivors.

“For the last four years, the government of Ukraine has been allocating $70 million annually for the needs of the affected. That is $37 per person per year! Not a penny more! How many of those remaining 1.9 million people affected by Chernobyl are sick [and] we can’t even tell? The doctors will never tell you you are sick or dying because of radiation.”……… https://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-ukraine-chernobyl-secrets-20190630-story.html

July 1, 2019 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Chernobyl survivors confirm the accuracy of the TV series, about nuclear radiation

Chernobyl survivors assess fact and fiction in TV series,

July 1, 2019 Posted by | media, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Secret militaty facility near Chernobyl nuclear site

Inside the Russian Woodpecker, the top secret military facility in the shadow of Chernobyl, We all know about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster but few have heard of the nearby secret military facility whose purpose is shrouded in mystery. News.com.au, Benedict Brook@BenedictBrook  23 June 19

“…….in the highest echelons of the Soviet military, Chernobyl had long been known for something else: an ominous top secret Cold War facility buried deep in the forest just a few kilometres from the notorious power plant.

To the USSR military it was known as the Duga array. To those who discovered its existence in the West it was dubbed the “Russian Woodpecker.” A cheery name that belied the fear and mystery that surrounded the facility.

When Chernobyl blew, it wasn’t just the city of Pripyat which disappeared off the map; so did the enormous military installation. It became bathed in radioactive dust and was left to rust in the exclusion zone, where it remains to this day.

Not that Duga was on any maps. It was marked, instead, as a children’s camp. But there were no kids here. Secret it may have been but come anywhere near it and it was hard to miss.

Built in 1976, from afar it looks like a giant wall towering over the forest. But get closer and it’s far more porous — a massive metal lattice work that stands some 50 stories tall and stretches for 500 meters long.

Despite its size, few outside of Chernobyl knew of its existence. Few of the West knew of it either — but then they began to hear it.

From the mid 1970s onwards a strange rapidly repeating interference began to be noticed on some radio frequencies. The incessant tapping was reminiscent of a woodpecker. Now and then, the signal would stray off little used frequencies and interrupt radio stations around the world.

THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER’S ROLE

Ham radio enthusiasts, as well military experts, deduced the signal was coming from somewhere north of Kiev, now in Ukraine but at the time part of Moscow ruled USSR. The Duga array had successfully given away its own secret location.

Luke Johnson, who took a tour of the Duga for Atlas Obscura magazine, said it wasn’t just the west that was picking up the eerie signal from Chernobyl.

“Higher-end Soviet television sets were sold with a special ‘woodpecker jamming’ device built in. More alarmingly, the mysterious signal began to interfere with emergency frequencies for aircraft,” he wrote.

But what exactly was the purpose of the Russian Woodpecker? Speculation in the West was rife with some theories that it could control the weather or even that the huge structure transmitted some kind of mind control power.

At the time the US and USSR were at the height of the Cold War with thousands of nuclear tipped missiles ready to be launched at a moment’s notice.

The Duga’s main role was as a huge radar receiver, part of a network of facilities designed to detect the launch of missiles headed towards the USSR.

…….. THREE MINUTE WARNING

While most visitors to Chernobyl make a beeline for the power station and abandoned town of Pripyat, the Duga array remains off the beaten track.

“During the Cold War, even approaching this spot would have had dire consequences, but today there is just one guard, near a dilapidated guard house with wood smoke rising from the chimney,” writes Mr Johnson.

…… Masses of discarded computer terminals, that once would have provided the USSR with the three minute warning, now lie broken and battered in the snow.

“While the nuclear reactor remains a nexus of international concern, the Russian Woodpecker stands largely forgotten,” said Mr Nazarayan.

….. The distinctive tapping sound was last heard sometime around 1989. And with that, the Russian Woodpecker fell silent.

benedict.brook@news.com.au    https://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/military/inside-the-russian-woodpecker-the-top-secret-material-facility-in-the-shadow-of-chernobyl/news-story/2b179ed778ac4b7f850c9fb27dff9d08

June 24, 2019 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Latest Chernobyl Shelter Implementation Plan operating this year, at cost of nearly £2billion

Chernobyl: The staggering amount it cost to install protective roof over reactor core  https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1143610/chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-hbo-drama-series-sky-atlantic-new-safe-confinement-spt

THE CHERNOBYL nuclear power plant has had a new roof installed to contain radioactive waste, 33 years after the April 1986 disaster. By ABBIE LLEWELYN    Jun 21, 20196
The roof has been in construction since 2010, moved into position in 2016 and systems began operation in February this year. The huge structure was placed over the original sarcophagus, which was hastily put together in 1986 after Reactor 4 exploded and released huge amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. The New Safe Confinement (NSC) aims to prevent the release of radioactive material for the next 100 years.

The Shelter Implementation Plan, of which the roof is the main element, has cost around £1.9billion – the roof alone costing around £1.3billion.

The NSC is designed to withstand temperatures ranging from -43C to 45C, a class-three tornado and an earthquake with a magnitude of 6 on the Richter scale.

The first container that encased the offending reactor was assembled in just five months. But by 1996, the original sarcophagus was damaged beyond repair from prolonged exposure to the radiation.

Rain water was leaking through the roof and came into contact with radioactive material before dripping into the soil, posing a serious threat to the environment.

Radiation levels in the area had risen to 10,000 roentgens per hour – normal levels are around 20-50 roentgens per hour.

The first sarcophagus was meant to last 30 years and repairs and maintenance was carried out until as recently as 2011, but ultimately it was decided that a second sarcophagus would be necessary.

The new roof is 162m long, 257m wide and 108m tall: the arch could house the Statue of Liberty or Notre Dame Cathedral – before the fire.

It was built so large in order to allow for machines to enter and remove the old sarcophagus.

After the nuclear disaster, a 30km exclusion zone was put in place, and 335,000 forced to evacuate – 115,000 from the surrounding area in 1986 and 220,000 more people from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine after the fact.

However, there has still been an increase in the incidence of cancer amongst those living near Chernobyl.

There have even been studies suggesting that the DNA of birds in the area has been altered.

Interest in Chernobyl has skyrocketed in recent weeks due to the HBO historical drama series ‘Chernobyl’.

The programme, available in the UK on Sky Atlantic, shows the events of that fateful day unfold, as well as the attempted cover-up by the Soviet Union.

It has been rated the highest of any programme on IMDB.

June 22, 2019 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Veteran of Chernobyl nuclear clean-up: HBO TV episode was very accurate

Chernobyl Episode 4 Scene | HBO | Graphite Clearing

This man knows what it’s really like shovelling radioactive debris on top of Chernobyl’s reactor ABC News 

Key points:

  • At age 32, Jaan Krinal was forced to go to Chernobyl and clean the roof of the reactor
  • He says men were initially enthusiastic to help eliminate the radiation
  • One-third of the men of his town he served with in Chernobyl have died

When he left his wife and two children on May 7, 1986 and went to work, Jaan Krinal didn’t know he would be one of those people.

The 32-year-old was working on a state-owned farm in Soviet-occupied Estonia.

Because he’d been forced to complete the Soviet military’s retraining a year before, he was confused when officers surprised him at work and said he’d been called up again — immediately.

Jaan and 200 other men were taken to a nearby school. Once they’d walked through the door, no-one was allowed to leave.

The men’s passports were seized before they were loaded onto buses and taken to a forest, where they were told to slip into brand new army uniforms.

“That’s when I first questioned what’s really going on here,” Jaan recalls………

Workers told radiation could have health benefits

It all happened fast.

Hundreds of men boarded a Ukraine-bound train on May 8. By the next evening, they were setting up camp on the edge of Chernobyl’s exclusion zone.

They were just 30 kilometres away from the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster — the still-smouldering wreckage of a reactor torn apart by a series of explosions and spewing radiation in a plume across Europe.

Jaan was among the first group sent to clean up in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

Tasked with hosing down radiation on the houses in nearby villages, he was thrown into the thick of it……

Despite the apparent uselessness of the job, they continued to work 11-hour days without a day off until the end of June. After that, they had two days of downtime a month.

As the weeks rolled on, suspicions grew.

“We started to have doubts. But all the officers said, ‘Why are you fretting, the radiation levels aren’t that high.”

In a cruel irony, the commanders told the men that being exposed to radiation would actually have health benefits.

“They joked that whoever has cancer can now get rid of it — because the radiation helps,” Jaan says.

Men unaware of deadly reason behind roof time limit

By the end of September, whatever enthusiasm the men initially felt had faded.

As many developed a cough, concerns grew about whether they were being lied to about the radiation being harmless. The respirators the men were given wouldn’t stay on because of the heat and were used until they got holes in them.

Later they found they should have been replaced every day…….

A rumour had it that the very last leg of the assignment was going on the roof of the reactor to clean up as much debris as possible.

Humans were going to be given a task that remote-control robots had previously attempted, but failed. The machines simply stopped working due to the unprecedented levels of radiation.

“When they told us, ‘You have to go to the roof’, we thought, ‘Oh, this means we can go home soon’,” he says.

On the day, he changed his army uniform for a protective suit, glasses and a gas mask, and a metal groin guard.

“We were all lined up and told, ‘who doesn’t want to go on the roof, step forward’. But only a couple of us did,” he says.

“There was no mass rejection. Most people went up there.

“It had to be done. We couldn’t just leave it. I think everyone realised the longer the reactor would have stayed open, the more dangerous it would have become.”

Jaan was shown on a small screen exactly which piece of debris he had to pick up with a shovel and throw off the roof of the reactor, but strictly warned against going too close to the edge.

He had two minutes to complete the assignment — a bell would ring to tell him when to run back.

The two-minute timeframe was to limit exposure to radiation, which could kill a man.

But this wasn’t communicated to the men at the time.

Jaan says the roof-cleaning scene depicted in HBO’s mini-series Chernobyl mirrored real life events…….

A staggering one-third of the men of his town who went to Chernobyl have died.

The average age of death has been 52.

“Over the past couple of years, just a couple of us have died. But not too long ago it was around 10 men a year,” he says.

“There have been cancers. There have been suicides too, but thankfully not too many.”……

he hopes tourists won’t start flocking to the ghost city.

“I hope they’ll never start sending large groups of tourists there. It’s still a dangerous zone,” he says.

He hasn’t seen the mini-series, but welcomes the attention Chernobyl disaster is getting — he thinks it acts as a warning to the human kind.  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-22/chernobyl-what-it-was-really-like-on-top-of-reactor/11223876

June 22, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Resources -audiovicual, Ukraine, wastes | Leave a comment

The dogs of Chernobyl

Chernobyl workers are adopting the site’s contaminated dogs, but not all of them are safe to pet, Business Insider ARIA BENDIX, JUN 19, 2019, 

June 20, 2019 Posted by | environment, Ukraine | Leave a comment

“Chernobyl” TV series – was drawn from the testimony of those who were there

The Chernobyl miniseries is a compelling account of how the disaster unfolded, based largely on the testimony of those present, most of whom died soon afterwards. It rings true but only scratches the surface of another, more cruel reality– that, in their desperation to save face, the Soviets were willing to sacrifice any number of men, women and children.  

The truth about Chernobyl? I saw it with my own eyes.   Guardian, 16 June 19, Kim Willsher reported on the world’s worst nuclear disaster from the Soviet Union. HBO’s TV version only scratches the surface, she says.There is a line in the television series Chernobyl that comes as no surprise to those of us who reported on the 1986 nuclear disaster in what was the Soviet Union – but that still has the power to shock:

“The official position of the state is that global nuclear catastrophe is not possible in the Soviet Union.”

It was not possible, so in the days and months after the world’s worst such accident, on 26 April, the Kremlin kept up its pretence. It dissembled, deceived and lied. I began investigating Chernobyl in the late 1980s after Ukrainian friends insisted authorities in the USSR were covering up the extent of the human tragedy of those – many of them children – contaminated by radiation when the nuclear plant’s Reactor 4 exploded, blasting a cloud of poisonous fallout across the USSR and a large swathe of Europe.

When photographer John Downing and I first visited, the Soviet Union, then on its last political legs, was still in denial about what happened despite president Mikhail Gorbachev’s new era of glasnost. Continue reading

June 17, 2019 Posted by | media, Resources -audiovicual, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Chernobyl meltdown: the melted metal, with uranium and zirconium, formed radioactive lava.

How The Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Meltdown Formed World’s Most Dangerous Lava, Forbes, David Bressan   16 June 19    “………Even areas thousands of kilometers away from Chernobyl are still today contaminated with radioactive particles, transported by the wind in a gigantic plume over Europe.

As the cooling system of the reactor was shut down and the insertion of control rods into the reactor core failed, the nuclear fission went out of control, releasing enough heat to melt the fuel rods, cases, core containment vessel and anything else nearby, including the concrete floor of the reactor building. The fuel pellets inside the fuel rods are almost entirely made of uranium-oxide while the encasing in which the pellets are placed is made of zirconium alloys. Melting at over 1,200°C the uranium and zirconium, together with melted metal, formed radioactive lava burning through the steel hull of the reactor and concrete foundations at a speed of 30 cm (12″) per hour. Concrete doesn’t melt, but decomposes and becomes brittle at high temperatures. Part of the concrete was incorporated in the lava flow, explaining its high content of silicates, minerals composed mostly of silicon, aluminum and magnesium. Due to its chemical composition and high temperature, the lava-like material has a very low viscosity. When lava has low viscosity, it can flow very easily as demonstrated by stalactites hanging from valves and tubes in the destroyed reactor core.

Four hundred miners were brought to Chernobyl to dig a tunnel underneath. It was feared that the radioactive lava would burn through the containment structure and contaminate the groundwater. Only later it was discovered that the lava flow stopped after 3 meters (9 feet). Chemical reactions and evaporating water cooled the mixture below 1,100°C, below the decomposition temperature of the concrete.

About eight months after the incident and with the help of a remotely operated camera, the solidified lava was discovered in the ruins of the reactor building. Externally resembling tree bark and grey in color, the mass was nicknamed the Elephant’s Foot.

At the time of its discovery, radioactivity near the Elephant’s Foot was approximately 10,000 roentgens, a dose so high, only minutes of exposure would prove fatal. In 1996, radioactivity levels were low enough to visit the reactor’s basement and took some photographs. The photos are blurry due to radiation damage. The lava-like material resulting from a nuclear meltdown is also named corium, after the core of the reactor. An unknown uranium-zirconium-silicate found in the corium of Chernobyl was named later chernobylite. Chernobylite is highly radioactive due to its high uranium content and contamination by fission products. Corium will likely remain radioactive for the next decades to centuries.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidbressan/2019/06/14/how-the-chernobyl-nuclear-plant-meltdown-formed-worlds-most-dangerous-lava-flow/#4d73b4f01691

June 17, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Chernobyl ‘suicide divers’ saved Europe from nuclear devastation

Selfless Chernobyl ‘suicide divers’ saved Europe from nuclear devastation. Mirror UK , 16 June 19

The world held its breath as the brave volunteers risked it all to but to prevent a second huge explosion.  he world owes him an eternal debt, but for Chernobyl hero Alexei Ananenko, it was just part of the job.Engineer Alexei was one of three men who volunteered to wade through radioactive water to prevent a second cataclysmic explosion at the stricken nuclear reactor.

They were dubbed “suicide divers” over the perilous mission.

Decked from head to toe in protective clothing, they descended into the bowels of Reactor 4 on a doomsday mission as the world held its breath.

Their heroism gripped viewers of Sky Atlantic drama Chernobyl. But with great understatement, 60-year-old Alexei insisted last night: “It’s nothing to brag about. Why should I feel a hero?

“I was on duty and it was my job. I was trained in what to do.”………

Experts believed that if 185 tons of molten nuclear lava hit the water below it would cause a radioactive steam explosion of 3-5 megatons – so massive that it would leave much of Europe uninhabitable for 500,000 years. Alexei was one of the few employees who knew where the latches and valves were located to drain water from the coolant system.

He, senior engineer Valeri Bespalov and shift supervisor Boris Baranov were tasked with turning them off.

Firefighters drained a huge volume of water so the men would not have to swim, but they were still forced to walk through radioactive fluid three metres below ground level.

The image of them carrying search lights as they wade through a toxic soup is captured in the TV drama…….

After the explosion a cloud of radioactive strontium, caesium and plutonium affected mainly the Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus, as well as parts of Russia and Europe. Between 1987 and 1990, 530,000 workers – known as liquidators and conscripted from across the USSR – worked in and around Chernobyl to clear up the toxic mess. ……….. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/selfless-chernobyl-suicide-divers-saved-16523155

June 17, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Religion and ethics, Ukraine | Leave a comment

The clean-up of the Chernobyl nuclear wreck- the costs and international effort

June 15, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Ukraine, wastes | Leave a comment

Holtec and Ukraine developing Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (dodgy underground devices)

Consortium established for SMR-160 deployment in Ukraine, WNN 12 June 2019

The consortium document was signed by Holtec CEO Kris Singh, Energoatom President Yury Nedashkovsky and SSTC President Igor Shevchenko. The signing ceremony – held at Holtec’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey – was attended by senior Holtec officials and delegations from Mitsubishi Electric, the US Department of Energy and Energoatom.

The consortium is a US company registered in Delaware with each of the three parties owning allotted shares. Its technology operation centre will be based in Kiev, Ukraine…….

The MoU includes the licensing and construction of SMR-160 reactors in Ukraine, as well as the partial localisation of SMR-160 components. The Ukrainian manufacturing hub is to mirror the capabilities of Holtec’s Advanced Manufacturing Plant in Camden, and will be one of four manufacturing plants Holtec plans to build at distributed sites around the world by the mid-2020s.

Holtec’s 160 MWe factory-built SMR uses low-enriched uranium fuel. The reactor’s core and all nuclear steam supply system components would be located underground, and the design incorporates a wealth of features including a passive cooling system that would be able to operate indefinitely after shutdown….

The SMR-160 is planned for operation by 2026.

The SMR-160 is currently undergoing the first phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s three-phase pre-licensing vendor design review process. State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, the nuclear regulatory authority in Ukraine, is expected to coordinate its regulatory assessment of SMR-160 under a collaborative arrangement with its Canadian counterpart.  http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Consortium-established-for-SMR-160-deployment-in-U

Edwin lyman on the safety of these reactors “Holtec SMR-160. The Holtec SMR-160 will generate 160 MWe. Like the NuScale, it is designed for passive cooling of the primary system during both normal and accident conditions. However, the modules would be much taller than the NuScale modules and would not be submerged in a pool of water. Each reactor vessel would be located deep underground, with a large inventory of water above it that could be used to provide a passive heat sink for cooling the core in the event of an accident. Each containment building would be surrounded by an additional enclosure for safety, and the space between the two structures would be filled with water. Unlike the other iPWRs, the SMR-160 steam generators are not internal to the reactor vessel. The reactor system is tall and narrow to maximize the rate of natural convective flow, which is low in other passive designs. Holtec has not made precise dimensions available, but the reactor vessel is approximately 100 feet tall, and the aboveground portion of the containment is about 100 feet tall and 50 feet in diameter (Singh 2013)

For these and other SMRs, it is important to note that only limited information is available about the design, as well as about safety and security. A vast amount of information is considered commercially sensitive or security-related and is being withheld from the public. ….

 in the event of a serious accident, emergency crews could have greater difficulty accessing underground reactors.

Underground siting of reactors is not a new idea. Decades ago, both Edward Teller and Andrei Sakharov proposed siting reactors deep underground to enhance safety. However, it was recognized early on that building reactors underground increases cost. Numerous studies conducted in the 1970s found construction cost penalties for underground reactor construction ranging from 11 to 60 percent (Myers and Elkins). As a result, the industry lost interest in underground siting. This issue will require considerable analysis to evaluate trade-offs…. ” https://nuclearinformation.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/edwin-lyman-on-small-modular-reactors/  erious accident, emergency crews could have greater difficulty accessing underground reactors.

June 13, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, Ukraine, USA | Leave a comment