20 years ago today: the worst accident ever.

I’m rather surprised that nobody mentioned that today is the 20th anniversary of the worst accident of all time: Chernobyl. So I guess it falls to me to do so, especially because it’s not over and never will be, and is therefore worth remembering.

I was 10 when I saw it on the news, and growing up near TMI and having a pretty good appreciation of that accident when I saw the pictures on TV I knew it was a big deal. Little did I know how big of a deal it would turn out to be, however.

The area surrounding the reactor and many other areas near to the reactor are essentially abandoned forever. The deaths from the accident are incalculable, but they are estimated by some to be over a half-million, with more to come. And the worst thing is that the protective sarcophagus is disintegrating and releasing more radiation as we speak. If that thing falls it’s back to square one.

It’s been said that the accident was one of the things that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. I don’t know about all that, but it was definitely a tragedy beyond comprehension.

I think it’s one of the more noteworthy events of my lifetime, more so than even 9/11 as far as impact, and yet it’s all but ignored. What a tragedy, in every respect.

We say that “we shall never forget”. Yet we do with alarming regularity. Let’s not forget about this one. It’s too big a deal.

I have an OP on this topic myself, started four days ago. :wink:

It’s all about timeliness. But thanks for the heads-up.

Adding, don’t assume you know the “truth” with regards to the authenticity of the site I linked in my thread. Look both photo documentaries over thoroughly, and look over the video footage she has as well, then decide. (For example, her detractors claim she cannot ride a motocycle, yet there is video footage of the back of her head, obviously 2 years ago due to hair length taken by someone riding behind her in “nuclear wastelands”.

Meh, same topic slightly different approach. We can co-exist and compliment, eh? As far as “timeliness” being early can be a good thing at times right? :wink: (The full version of the NPR story isn’t up anymore for example, though I think you can listen to the story.)

I am mistaken, the NPR story is up online in full. Go read it now, while it is still up. It was only available in print in excerpt form the day after my OP. Have tissues nearby. You have been warned.

Sure, it’s important to remember, but also remember the cause was a massive cockup and they were pretty much asking for it to happen. No containment building, awful design in the control rods, unaware operators, operators shutting off safety systems and removing control rods, and all of this followed by an inept response. Yes, there were brave men doing what they could in response, and yes, it’s terrible that so many have been affected, and yes, it’s awful that it happened at all, but it seems to me that this whole thing could have been prevented. Frankly, it reminds me of Bhopal. (By the way, was thread a thread in 2004 about Bhopal? Just curious.)

For what it’s worth, I was three when it happened. So everything I know about Chernobyl is after the fact.

The disaster might have stood a better chance of being prevented had the place it occurred not been within the Soviet Regime. Watch the video taken in Pripyat on the morning of the evacuation on the link I posted in this thread, (the link in the words “video footage”) and then read the accounts from survivors on NPR, and tell me that it would have been any different given the time and place. I’ll tell you to your face you are niave in the extreme.

My point is that if there is no reactor turbine test, there is no meltdown and no steam explosion. No steam explosion, no graphite fire. And even if everything had happened, a full containment building probably would have helped. Plus, it was a lousy reactor design to begin with. After the explosion, I’m not sure what anyone could have done. But you can’t tell me with a straight face that the entire event couldn’t have been prevented. After all, none of the other RBMK reactors have ever melted down.

You are still looking at it as though this were any other world power but the one it occured in. They were proud of their design, and proud of their goverment. They didn’t even tell people ***UP INTO THE '90s * ** that the river Techa was contaminated and let their citizens drink from it and swim in it and water their gardens with it, for Og’s sake! “But if this”, and “but if that” means NOTHING now. (I see what you are saying, I do not think you “get” what I am saying.) It happened, and twenty years later is when some of the really nasty radiation is coming out. We, as a world are paying for this and will continue to do so for a long, long time. I surely will be dust before anyone can even think of maybe living in some places.

Okay, fine, fair enough. I’ve never been aware of a world with the Soviet Union in it, so maybe I just can’t get it.

The day it happened, I was living in West Berlin (the wall was still up then) and riding my bike through Tiergarten, a park in the center of Berlin. It was rather warm and there were the usual pockets of Germans doing their nude sunbathing…at any rate, they then said that anyone who was outside that day in Berlin was probably exposed to lower levels of radiation. I don’t glow in the dark (well, maybe after a few Miller Lites) so I guess I dodged a bullet on that one.

Germany banned a lot of food products shortly afterwards, including a lot of dairy…only to find out that the milk they banned later turned up in ice cream products that were sold a few months later…

My understanding is that the number of deaths is actually a lot lower than it is generally believed to be.

This site is a Uranium Information Centre site, so I guess they would have a vested interest in downplaying casualty figures. They refer to:

[li]WHO concerns raised in 1991 that “local medical scientists had incorrectly attributed various biological and health effects to radiation exposure.”[/li][li]An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) study involving more than 200 experts from 22 countries published in 1991 …[finding that no health disorders were] radiation related.[/li][li]a report of the UN Scientific Commission on the Effect of Atomic Radiation, which stated in 2000 that “apart from this [thyroid cancer] increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 14 years after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality or in non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure.”[/li][li]the “2005 Chernobyl Forum study [which] involved over 100 scientists from eight specialist UN agencies and the governments of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia” which came to pretty much the same conclusion.[/li][/ul]

The 2005 Forum’s casualty estimates were

Greenpeace, on the other hand, says that things are indeed as black as they’ve been painted.

I haven’t got the scientific background to know who is right and who is wrong. I would have to say, though, that my gut reaction would be that Greenpeace would be less trustworthy on this issue than the various UN agencies mentioned (they at least have to *try * to look as though they are disinterested and impartial) and to say that the WHO, the UNSCEAR and a forum involving eight agencies and three governments (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus) is suppressing the truth seems too much like a grand conspiracy theory to me…

I think it’s a telling comparison between the US and the former Soviet Union in this regard.

In the US, we had Three Mile Island, which was a combination of faulty design and operator error, yet we managed to keep the situation from getting out of hand. Nobody got dosed outside of the plant, as far as I can remember. Like asterion has said, TMI had reactor containment buildings (all US plants do) which features very thick, lead-shielded concrete, etc., and other safety features that ensured no harm came to the public. We did come pretty close, but the bottom line was that we still were able to keep everything contained.

With Chernobyl, like other Soviet nuke plants, there is very little, if any, reactor containment. IIRC Chernobyl’s reactors were housed in regular old buildings. Add to that shoddy safety regulations and even shoddier execution of safety protocols, then throw in government stonewalling and secrecy, and you’ve got, well, Chernobyl.

One of the other unfortunate effects of Chermobyl is that it tarnished the reputation of nuclear power, which with properly designed reactors is very safe and very clean. [:(]

An environmental disaster, in more ways than one, as it prolonged the popularity of coal-fired power stations.

There was a t.v. show called, IIRC, “Chernobyl Heart,” which documented doctors working to fix an allegedly high level of heart defects in children born after the Chernobyl disaster. The implication was that there has been a vast increase in particular birth defects, including one specific type of heart defect, attributible to radiation exposure.

Does anyone know if this is in any way accurate?

There was a great article in last month’s National Geographic on Chernobyl. It contained some incredibly eerie photographs of the currounding ghost towns, where residents left behind everything they owned. (Future archaeologists are going to go nuts over those sites.)

It’s kind of interesting that I find myself going along with Greenpeace on this one, considering that I think Greenpeace (as an organization) is generally nothing but a bunch of eco-terrorists.

Still, it’s hard to argue with the idea that people will be dying “before their time” or are being born with birth defects in that area that will one day result in the shortening of their lives. It’s one of those things that’s pretty much impossible to prove, yet it can still be observed in some respect.

The sheep farmers in North Wales ( no jokes please!) are still feeling the effects of this accident. Because of the rocky nature of the soil, the radioactive contamination is still high. They have to check every animal with a geiger counter. If the reading is too high they send these sheep to somewhere that has “clean” pasture . After a few weeks of feeding on this non-radioactive grass , the contamination is disappears from their bodies. .
On a similar note, children from Chernobyl come to the UK for a few weeks every year so that they can have the chance to be in an non-radioactive environment . This helps to lower the contamination in their bodies.

Interesting series of photos that someone linked me to a few days ago, regarding health aspects of the Chernobyl disaster. Warning: disturbing and depressing.