Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science Technology

Chernobyl...18 Years Later 971

Posted by michael
from the post-apocalyptic dept.
abysmilliard writes "A young Ukrainian woman has posted a photo journal of her motorcycle rides through Chernobyl and the area surrounding it. Included are pictures of the now-emptied city, maps of current radiation levels, and a discussion of how the area has changed. While the english is quite broken, it's often rather surreal, as well, with quotes like, 'I don't know how sound the silence to those tourists that they can not stand it, but to me after hitting a red line on my bike tacho it sound like all those ghosts cursing 1100cc kawasaki engin.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Chernobyl...18 Years Later

Comments Filter:
  • An anglefire site (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalgimpus (468277) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:11AM (#8482243) Homepage
    Guess how long that will take to /. the bandwidth out of?

    I'm saving a mirror now, if necessary, I can mirror.
  • Dangerous? (Score:3, Informative)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:17AM (#8482291)
    Dad is nuclear physicist and he also says that of all dangerous things he can only think about one, which is riding on fifth or sixth gear on my bike

    Yep. Especially when you're wearing jeans, which will be ripped through in a half-second if you were to fall off the bike. I don't ride a motorcycle, but I do know only the truly stupid ride without motorcycle pants+jacket/suit, especially if the roads aren't in great shape and you'd be lucky if days went by before someone happened to pass you by. Same goes for riding without a helmet- dumb, dumb, dumb.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:18AM (#8482294)
    Motorcycling is a great hobby of mine, I ride all my life and I owned different bikes and I ended with big kawasaki zzr 1100 cc sport touring motorcycle, which also known as ZX-11. it fast like a bullet and comfortable for long trips. I travel a lot and one of my favorite destination lead through poisoned with radiation, so called Chernobyl "dead zone" It is 130kms from my home. Why favourite? because one can ride there for hours and not meet any single car and not to see any single soul. People left and nature is blooming, there are beautiful places, woods, lakes. There is no newly built roads, but those which left from 80th in fairly good condition The word CHERNOBYL scares holly bijesus out of people here. If I tell someone that I am heading in "dead zone"... you know, what I hear.. In best case- "are you nuts?" My dad used to say that people afraid of a things which they don't know. Dad is nuclear physicist and he also says that of all dangerous things he can only think about one, which is riding on fifth or sixth gear on my bike. In any way, dad and their team work in "dead zone" for last 18 years. They doing researches from the day when nuclear disaster happened. The rest of guys in a team are microbiologists, doctors, botanists.. etc. I was 7 years old back then and in a few hours after accident happened dad sent us with sister off with the train to Grandmother. Granny lives 800 kms from here and dad wasn't sure if it was far enough for us to stay away of troubles. We had communists at power those days and they kept silence about this accident and then people start learning by themselves and real panic began in 7-10 days after disaster. Dad says, that in those first 10 days exposure to radiation was so powerful that one day of staying in Kiev those first days was equal of 1 year of living in Chernobyl now. Here is map that shows radiation level in different parts of dead zone and which I updated for our local biker club in February 21st of this year (2004) map shows level of radiation on asphalt, usually on the middle of road, because on edge of road it is twice as higher and if you step 1 meter off the road it 4 or 5 times higher. Radiation sit on earth, on the grass, in apples and mushrooms. It is not on asphalt, which make rides through this area safe. I always go for rides alone, because not need anyone to rise dust and I had never problems with dosimeter guys. They are on check points and if they will find radiation on you vehicle, they give a chemical shower and it eat ya bike next page some 15-18 years ago, we've been getting 95% of chernobyl radiation through the air, now radiation went in soil and we getting 99% of it with our food. so, better to watch those cucumebers they sell on market place. Own garden is a way out 900 years In theory radiation will stay in Chernobil area for the next 48.000 years, but in reality first people must start to populate those area already in some 900 years. This is when the most dangerous elements will dissapear. their half-value period is from 300-900 years. I suppose there will be someway discovered to neutralise or clean up the radiation in the next 100 years. Well, if our government will finance our science as they do it now, then we won't be able to rid of this and will have to wait this 900 years untill radiation will evaporate by itself. Actually, some people coming back to their homes and settle down, those mostly old people who do not care if they die today or tomorrow. important is to die at home. checkpoint this is a place where they give a chemical shower, also their mission was to stop marauders. marauders marauders in radiation poluted area are not just a regular marauders, they don't steal stuff for themselves. There were cases of radiactive tv sets and other stuff being sold on city second hand markets and then police shot 7 or 8 of them and it helped barges they wanted to melt those barges for a metal, but it appears that those metal will still containt radioactive elements. next page this is a bus stop. One don't need to be in a 30kms "dead
  • Mirror (Score:4, Informative)

    by pr00f (457508) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:20AM (#8482304) Homepage
    http://unbolted.llarian.net/chern/

    Mirror is the site gets overloaded or bandwidth exceeds limit (which can happen with angelfire).
  • Re:An anglefire site (Score:5, Informative)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:21AM (#8482309)
    For the record, a free Angelfire site presently gets 1 GB of monthly bandwidth on which to serve up to 20 MB of content. Which means, when /. finishes off this site's bandwidth allowance, this site's gone for the month.

    If somebody were to give this unfortunate person Angelfire's highest "element plan" [lycos.com], it would cost $15 for the setup and $14.95 for the first month, and give her 30 GB of monthly traffic. That might be enough to survive a slashdotting.
  • MIRROR :) (Score:-1, Informative)

    by shfted! (600189) <shiftedMPAA@RIAAshifted.ca minus evil> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:21AM (#8482310) Journal
    I have a full mirror here. [markrose.ca] Enjoy!
  • Pompei (Score:5, Informative)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:24AM (#8482332) Homepage
    Her comparison (on page 15) of the area to Pompei mirrored my own impressions from her site. Spooky.

    (She - apparently by mistake - skipped page 16, which you can access by modifying the URL manually.)

  • by titaniam (635291) * <slashdot@drpa.us> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:26AM (#8482347) Homepage Journal
    She mentions that the radiation exposure in Kiev during the first few days was equivalent to about a year's worth of radiation at Chernobyl now. The bastards did not inform the populace until the wind blew into Europe and radiation alarms started going off, igniting international alarm. My wife, a child at the time, was belatedly rushed out of town along with all the children in Kiev a week later. I can't prove a link, but the fact is my wife had cancer surgery just last week. I'm sure that coal and gas are worse for the environment, and I support nuclear energy as a cleaner alternative, but a freak accident combined with a stupid reaction of a government made matters much worse than they should have been. People will be suffering due to Chernobyl for decades and centuries to come.
  • Hidden page (Score:5, Informative)

    by bgeer (543504) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:27AM (#8482352)
    There is another page of pictures [angelfire.com] that you won't see clicking on the links, she has page 15 going directly to 17 by accident. This page shows the swimming pool.
  • by Mipmap (569611) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:27AM (#8482358)

    When the bomb went off, you could actually see the bones in your hands from all the X-rays that were emitted from the bomb.

    How exactly does this work? When have human eyes been capable of seeing the x-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum? Or, is there some grain of truth in this, in terms of the visible light being so intense that it's possible to see vague impression of bones within your hand? I suspect the latter.

  • Re:Facinating (Score:2, Informative)

    by Osty (16825) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:28AM (#8482361)

    go to wheat feild in the middle of the US and it's silent too

    You'd have to find a very remote wheat field. I grew up in the rural Midwest, and even in the middle of a field you could still hear planes flying high overhead, cars driving on the highways miles away, almost-inaudible buzzing from power lines, birds and bugs(depending on the time of year), and more. There are very few places in the world that are truly silent, but I could imagine that the Chernobyl area is one of them.

  • Re:Mirror (Score:2, Informative)

    by pr00f (457508) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:30AM (#8482373) Homepage
    FOr the record, this mirror is running on multiple gig-e, sitting one hop off three backbones. Please let me know if you find issues with mirror.

    And just so it's a clickable link... http://unbolted.llarian.net/chern/ [llarian.net]
  • by cybercuzco (100904) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:31AM (#8482380) Homepage Journal
    When the bomb went off, you could actually see the bones in your hands from all the X-rays that were emitted from the bomb. True, but not for the Reason you stated. I dont care how bright the light is, you cant see X-Rays with your eyes. however, with a sufficiently bright light your hand becomes translucent and you can see the outline of your bones. Try this: With a very powerful flashlight (like a Maglite) go into a dark room and let your eyes adjust for a minute or two. Then hold your hand so the palm completely covers the flashlight part, dont let any light escape. Turn the flashlight on and you should be able to make out the outline of your bones, if the light is powerful enough. But you still cant see X-rays.
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:3, Informative)

    by SilentOne (197494) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:32AM (#8482388) Homepage
    It's a Bradbury story from _The Martian Chronicles_
  • Re:Sad graffiti... (Score:3, Informative)

    by dilweed (698689) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:32AM (#8482392) Homepage
    Here it is, although it's geocities, and will be /.ed real quick.

    http://www.geocities.com/pripyatcity/argazkiak.htm
  • by Mipmap (569611) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:36AM (#8482411)

    The funny (sad) thing is I had a science teacher in the 7th grade (1985?) who said the exact same thing "and the x-rays from the bomb allowed people to see their bones".

    We were talking about the made-for-TV movie "The Day After". For you young 'uns this was a movie about nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The movie did actually depict, during the nuclear flash, being able to see the skeletons of people. Complete and utter bullshit.

  • by r00zky (622648) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:41AM (#8482449)
    In page 12 [angelfire.com] she shows a radiation display at the city 4km from reactor, it says 81.6 but the scale is in russian characters, the text says "microroengen per hour"

    Dunno if that's accurate...
  • by corngrower (738661) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:41AM (#8482454) Journal
    The eye is only sensitive to visible light. Its just that the light was so intense that it actually shone through her hands. You can see this effect with some of those little 3mw red lasers you can buy. They can shine right through your hand as well.
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:5, Informative)

    by Have Blue (616) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:43AM (#8482466) Homepage
    There Will Come Soft Rains.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:45AM (#8482477)
    They're a heck of a lot safer than Chernobyl ever was. Chernobyl's design would never have been permitted to operate in any other country besides "Soviet Russia."
  • by anzha (138288) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:52AM (#8482522) Homepage Journal

    Yes and no. The West has repeatedly offered to build replacements of a safe design: not just the US, but France and others. However, the West wants to keep control of the money and construction: Kuchma et al aren't exactly known for being good, honest men with the dinero, ya know?

    Hell, Kuchma's government isn't exactly known for being good at anything other than lining their own pockets and killing journalists.

  • Re:Gamma World (Score:5, Informative)

    by sparrow_hawk (552508) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:56AM (#8482560)
    The story in question is Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," which is part of the _Martian Chronicles_. And yes, both it and Chernobyl are extremely, extremely spooky.
  • Re:It's a lesson (Score:5, Informative)

    by jimhill (7277) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:02AM (#8482603) Homepage
    Insightful, but wrong...as with most nuclear anything-related posts on /.

    The RBMK reactors have a positive void coefficient. The rod control mechanisms had been manually disabled for the turbine coast-down experiment (because they kept ramming in the rods, something which should have served as a Big Clue to the operators that what they were doing was a bad idea). When the cooling water began to boil, the reactivity jumped due to that positive void coefficient and the power level spiked 3-4 orders of magnitude in some milliseconds. That flashed the cooling water into steam, which exploded and blew the top off the roof. The 3,000+ degree graphite moderator was now exposed to open air and burst into flame and it was good night, Gracie.

    Read Medvedev's book. Hell, read _any_ book.
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:5, Informative)

    by Safety Cap (253500) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:04AM (#8482623) Homepage Journal
    Someone posted the story and an analysis [earthlink.net], too.
  • Re:Pompei (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:06AM (#8482637)
    Thanks for the link! [angelfire.com]
  • by Killswitch1968 (735908) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:11AM (#8482664)
    I talked to my radiation-biology professor and he swore, that in 15 years of working with radioactive he had never, ever seen anything radioactive actual glow. In fact it's usually grey, and sits there rather innocuously. If anyone has heard different please let me know.
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Informative)

    by NeuroManson (214835) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:12AM (#8482671) Homepage
    I believe there's a major difference between silver nitrate film (a chemical light reactive process) and digital cameras (CCD or CMOS being an electronic reactive process). That may be the reason why there was no fogging (recall too that a lot of cameras used to videotape Chernobyl were either tube or CCD based).
  • by theoddball (665938) <theoddball@nOsPAM.gmail.com> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:19AM (#8482708)
    Dimethylmercury is scary, scary stuff:

    Dartmouth researcher poisoned by 2 droplets [denison.edu].

    Odd that this happened (semi-recently) at my school, and nobody's ever mentioned it in ANY of the chem classes I've taken...

  • by mesocyclone (80188) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:22AM (#8482723) Homepage Journal
    There is another of that design under construction in Cuba.

    The graphite moderator reactor has a positive temperature coefficient, so it is inherently unstable. The fact that the graphite burns isn't too neat either.
  • by Harinezumi (603874) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:22AM (#8482726)
    The cyrillic characters read "mk R / ch" which I assume to stand for "mikro Rengen v chas" or "micro-Roengen per hour". So yeah, it's accurate.
  • Re:Sad graffiti... (Score:3, Informative)

    by jelle (14827) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:24AM (#8482743) Homepage
    "Down quickly; any mirrors out there?"

    Yes. The WayBack Machine [archive.org] has at least some of it.

    (can we /. the wayback machine?)
  • by Hard_Code (49548) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:24AM (#8482744)
    No shit. I just recently was informed of a student around this area who, for whatever reason apparently "ate a lot of tuna" with her dog one week, and get this, they are BOTH suffering from mercury POISONING. Now I don't know what the fuck "a lot of tuna" is, maybe they got a whole tuna as a gift or something, but that you can possibly get mercury poisoning from just an amount that you can stuff in your face in a week (and let's assume that's not 24/7 eating tuna, in that case you'd die of your stomach rupturing first), is seriously screwed up.

    Now let's say she ate tuna EVERY meal for a whole week...that adds up to what, 21 meals of tuna? How many tuna sandwiches have you had recently? In 21 weeks will you have consumed enough to otherwise qualify you as "mercury poisoned"?

    I'm glad the general public has such a say in how our food is raised because, yes sir, I loves me that good old American heavy metal poisonin'! I'll fry it up in my recycled radioactive-waste frying pan!
  • by jensend (71114) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:26AM (#8482752)
    TMI was nothing like Chernobyl. Going to the dentist for an x-ray gives you more dangerous radiation than just about anybody got from TMI. Nobody died because of TMI.
  • Links to the Story (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:27AM (#8482753)
    Odd, we read that in english class as 9th graders.

    Here are a couple of links to read the story. fairly short, just a couple of pages.

    http://www.plazaboricua.com/anil/archivo/fabulas 2/ cuentos/august2026.html
    http://home.earthlink.net /~hiflyer/APbradbury/twcs r.htm
    http://www.dchsenglish.com/dchsenglish/assi gnments /therewillcomesoftrains.htm

    There you go!

    ~Shodekiagari
  • I have mirrored it. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vilim (615798) <ryanNO@SPAMjabberwock.ca> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:33AM (#8482784) Homepage
    Chances are, because it is on an Angelfire page, it will go down within the next 45 seconds. In anycase I have mirrored it at

    http://ryans.northernwatercolour.com/chernobyl

    I also included page 16 which she mistakenly skipped in the linking, it shows a swimming pool.
  • Medvedev's book... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:33AM (#8482795)
    ...is here [amazon.com].
  • by Muhammar (659468) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:46AM (#8482866)
    The observed shining was caused by white-hot burning graphite.

    Cherenkov radiation is not observed in air (you need particles with mass traveling with speed higher than the speed of light in given medium , and the optical density of air is low (close to vacuum), the particles would have to travel at speeds near to c - which are difficult to obtain because of relativistic effects. (You can get that from accelerators, but not from fission)
    You can see Cherenkov typicaly in water - the blue shine around immersed fuel rods or intense radioisotope source.

    There is similar-looking bluish shine/flash around extremely strong sources, like criticality accident with Pu, U, or in nuclear explosion (the mushroom has bluish envelope). This shine is caused by intense ionisation of air molecules by radiation, mostly X-ray. The recombination of ions produces excited states whis give away the surpluss of energy by emission in UV/vis , which also appears bluis white.
  • by Killswitch1968 (735908) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:47AM (#8482872)
    http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a990430a.html

    Little FAQ on Cerenkov radiation. Radiation itself doesn't glow, it energizes other particles which do the glowing.
  • Re:It's a lesson (Score:5, Informative)

    by mooman (9434) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:52AM (#8482901) Homepage
    Another photographer has put together a whole book that looks very much like her site... I've flipped through it.. hundreds of ghostly images..
    Here's a link to it from Amazon:
    Robert Polidori: Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl [amazon.com]
  • Mirror Me This (Score:3, Informative)

    by alexburke (119254) * <slashdotmail.alexburke@ca> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @01:56AM (#8482922)
    Here [alexburke.ca] you go. No bandwidth limit, and I took a couple of minutes to strip out the ad-insertion JavaScript.
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kris Warkentin (15136) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:07AM (#8482984) Homepage
    Here [dchsenglish.com]
    Good story.
  • Three Mile Island (Score:5, Informative)

    by corngrower (738661) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:09AM (#8482994) Journal
    The situation at TMI was pretty serious. Although no one died, the fuel rods in the core of the reactor did melt. That's how hot it was. There was a lot of contamination inside of the containment building (it served its designed purpose) and it took a long time to clean it up.
  • Paul Fusco (Score:2, Informative)

    by andawyr (212118) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:15AM (#8483026)
    Magnum photographer Paul Fusco has some very moving photographs of Chernobyl, and it's victims. They can be found here [magnumarchive.com]. Magnum appears to be offline at the moment, but please, take the time to view the photographs. Very powerful stuff.

    I recently attended a presentation by Paul, and some people were reduced to tears by the photographs he showed of Chernoybl.

    It's a very sad situation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:21AM (#8483063)
    yep, your right. Another example here from a physician describing the blast.

    http://www.publicshelter.com/main/bofile.html

    and here

    http://www.angelfire.com/tx/yuccaflat/herb.html

    and here

    http://www.washingtondispatch.com/article_6843.s ht ml
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:23AM (#8483072)
  • by Muhammar (659468) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:26AM (#8483089)
    Mayak's walking wounded:

    http://www.thebulletin.org/issues/1999/so99/so99la rin.html
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:49AM (#8483204)
    The reason you see the blood vessels in the eye during brief flashes
    like that is because the blood vessels are actually in front of the
    photoreceptors. Light entering the eye passes through a layer of
    blood vessels and nerves before it gets to the rods and cones.
    Ordinarily, you don't see that because images that are stabilized
    with respect to the retina get filtered out by the brain. Sometimes
    you can stare at something just right, and then the image begins to
    fade. Most of the time you can't, because even when you're staring
    at something, your eyes are constantly moving very slightly, so the
    image isn't stabilized. I guess that's why cats shake their heads
    just before the pounce: so they can get a clearer picture of their
    target.
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:3, Informative)

    by clarinetforhire (705810) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:49AM (#8483205)
    That's probably due to the time of year the pictures were taken.

    All of her pictures were from Feb. 21, which is before there are leaves on most of the trees and bushes. The old picture with the two young girls in it looks like it was at least April when it was taken because they're dressed for warm weather and the hybrid tea roses are blooming.
  • by cdn-programmer (468978) <terrNO@SPAMterralogic.net> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @03:08AM (#8483287)

    While not wanting to diminish the size of this catastrophie, it is nevertheless very important to actually look at the numbers and to put things into perspective.

    Please refer to the papers from the United Nations studies on this. They can be found here: UN website on the Chernobyl Disaster [un.org]

    Starting with paragraph 1.26 we find a discussion. In paragraph 1.28 we find that there were some 2000 cases of thyroid cancer attributed to the radiation (iodine). However, thyroid cancer can be treated and there is no real death rate associated with the thyroid cancers.

    Next we find that the anticipated development of leukimias has not occured. In paragraph 1.36 we find this quote: unexpected appearance of early childhood thyroid cancer, the unexpected absence of leukaemia stemming from the accident.

    In paragraph 1.38 we see that there is a iodine deficiency problem in the population and that addressing this problem in a timely fashion would no doubt have made a considerable difference.

    Starting with paragraph 2.01 on page 30, we have a history of the event itself. In paragraph 2.03 I131 is discussed. This isotope has a half life of 8.05 days and were the population given an ample supply of non-radioactive iodine - through the use of simple iodized table salt - then the radioactive version would not have been picked up.

    It is really unfortunate that iodine pills could not have been distributed faster!

    On page 56 we find more telling information. 28 highly exposed individuals died within 4 months of the accident (see box 4.2). In addition to the end of 1998, 11 others died.

    in paragraph 4.18 we have more discussion of the thyroid cancers, and the esitmation is made that the total number could be as high as 8,000.

    In the end, while this certainly was a major disaster with an impact on innocent people that should not be underestimated, we are still left with the facts that the media overestimated the impact and the death rate by many orders of magnitude.

    In fact some of the pictures clearly demonstrate this. If one looks at the flora and the fauna in the pictures we see groups of wild animals happily running along totally oblivious to the radiation.

    These animals have a faster metabolic rate than humans and thus are not as radiation hardy as we are. Yet they are clearly thriving and the world they are living in, and rearing their offspring can only be described as very beautiful.

    Yes the radiation is there and yes it should not be scoffed at. But the pictures clearly show that animal life is not impacted all that much. Those horses look pretty healthy and pretty happy to me!

  • Re:angelfire? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sahrss (565657) <sahrs@nOsPAm.yahoo.com> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @03:14AM (#8483310)
    Here is zipped copy of the entire thing [sahrs.net], including a fix of page 16 (+ links) mentioned by another /.'er below. I wanted a personal copy, figured I would offer it to anyone else who wanted to keep this excellent site...
  • I was close... (Score:5, Informative)

    by drgonzo59 (747139) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @03:23AM (#8483350)
    I lived not that far from Cernobyl. I was 8 at the time. When it happened it was so downplayed that nobody outside that small area realized the impact, until much later. It was on the evening news and it was a 5 minute thing, my dad was a little worried but said it's probably something minor. They showed a cloud of smoke comming from the place and that's all, then other daily news followed. I also remember later, my mom saying how that year many of her plants outside had died, don't know if it is related or not. The worst is when the government had asked for volunteers to help clean-up the mess and promised appartments for those who sign up. They didn't say that when they come home to those new appartments, they won't have that time much to enjoy them. There were rumours how people with heavy doses where "cooked" that the skin and meat was comming of their bones and they couldn't even feel that.
  • See Also... (Score:2, Informative)

    by LMNTK (759645) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @03:24AM (#8483353)
    ...the upcoming PC game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The developers of the game made a trip to Chernobyl and also took some photos of "The Zone" that are quite amazing as well. Supposedly they recreated about 60% of the real world for this game. How creepy...

    Here [gsc-game.com] is the link to the photos, and here [stalker-game.com] is the game.

    Both photos collections are unsettling. Just to think of what it must be like to experience Chernobyl, past or present, gives me chills. But is it not somehow fascinating to see our own technological marvels destroyed and decayed, as a sort of humbling reminder? Or am I the only one?

    -K
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:2, Informative)

    by fatman1683 (706195) <fatman1683 AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @03:34AM (#8483387)
    There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground, And swallows circling with their shimmering sound; And frogs in the pools singing at night, And wild plum trees in tremulous white; Robins will wear their feathery fire, Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire; And not one will know of the war, not one Will care at last when it is done. Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, If mankind perished utterly; And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn Would scarcely know that we were gone. Sara Teasdale
  • i remember (Score:3, Informative)

    by user317 (656027) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @03:58AM (#8483469)
    being in odessa when a bunch of "survivers" where sent to live out the last of their days. odessa, ukraine is kind of a resort town for vacationing buerocrats and a tuirist attraction for foreigners. there were mostly little kids around were our dacha was, but there were the unlucky soldiers there as well that were sent in to clean up that mess without any protection what so ever. It was really creepy seeing a bunch of hairless kids play on the beach, i was just a kid then and didnt quite understand what was going on but the images stuck, but it could explain why i harbor so much resentment towards anyone associated with that regime.
  • by Penguinshit (591885) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @04:05AM (#8483483) Homepage Journal

    Yeah.. Lesson One is don't use an RBMK reactor with no secondary containment. Current (and future) designs have Fail-Safe systems where, should the control system fail, the whole shebang fails into a "safe" mode (control rods are dropped which effectively stops the reaction and free-flowing coolant is delivered to alleviate residual core heat). TMI would have failed safe, except for incorrect operator intervention.

    Chernobyl was also utilized to produce weapons-grade plutonium as well as civilian electricity, which is why the graphite moderator was used (instead of water, as in US civilian designs). When the graphite burned, the temperature shot up very quickly and the reactor exploded through the pressure-seal which was the only line of defense (not the reinforced concrete secondary containment vessel in Western designs). TMI showed how well that design could withstand both an incident and poor handling of that incident.

  • Re:Three Mile Island (Score:5, Informative)

    by Eskarel (565631) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @04:11AM (#8483502)
    The differences between TMI and Chernobyl are essentially those of design and the ways in which they affected the disaster.

    Though the containment building was very helpful the design of the reactor was somewhat more important, Soviet and US nuclear plants use a different substance as a moderator(could have the term wrong, been a while, it's the thing which slows the neutrons so the reaction can take place). In the US reactors use deuterium(heavy water) as a moderator, if the reaction gets out of control and the heat reaches a certain point the heavywater is vaporized and the reaction stops, in the USSR however they used graphite for this purpose, which does not evaporate in the same way. Because of this, not only was the reaction not contained as well at Chernobyl, but the reaction continued for a much longer period of time releasing more radiation.

    Of course the way things were handled also didn't help Chernobyl much, I've seen the footage of the people they sent in there afterwards, they had nowhere near sufficient protection and I've also seen footage of the gigantic lump of plutonium sitting underneath where the reactor used to be. Not a good place for inadequately protected people.

  • by kerb (43511) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @04:27AM (#8483555)
    for those who know what it is (like me), heres from wikipedia :

    A dosimeter is a pen-like device that measures the cumulative dose of radiation received by the device. It is usually clipped to one's clothing to measure one's actual exposure to radiation. Magnifying lenses (a low-power microscope) and an illumination lens allow one to directly read the dose by aiming the illumination lens at a light source and looking into the device.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dosimeter
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @04:29AM (#8483565)
    Your retina is actually below a layer of blood vessels, as the retina itself is backed by non-venous nervous tissue. So basically you are seeing the blood vessels that float above your retina.

    No, this design is not intuitive. Seems to work though.
  • by kakos (610660) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @04:35AM (#8483581)
    Inside the Chernobyl Plant, you'd need a lead block encased around you to be safe. The radiaction in the vicinity of the pile is still so intense that most electronics malfunction within minutes, if not less.
  • Re:Three Mile Island (Score:5, Informative)

    by Eunuchswear (210685) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @04:43AM (#8483609) Journal
    Right in principle, wrong in detail:
    In the US reactors use deuterium(heavy water) as a moderator
    No, the US reactors use light water as a coolant and moderator.

    The Canadians use heavy water in the Candu design.

    For the details of what happened at Chernobyl see [gsu.edu]

  • you missed a page (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @04:50AM (#8483626)
    page 16 [angelfire.com]
  • by WuphonsReach (684551) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @04:53AM (#8483633)
    The differences between TMI and Chernobyl are essentially those of design and the ways in which they affected the disaster.

    Unlike TMI, Chernobyl almost seemed to be "how dumb can we be and get away with it [gsu.edu]". (See the quote: "like airplane pilots experimenting with the engines in flight".)
  • by AShocka (97272) <reverse.gek@gmail.com> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @05:31AM (#8483746)
    I have a friend living in Dnepropetrovsk and she says that most children in the vicinity have a weaker immune system and suffer allergies and all sorts of ailments.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @05:37AM (#8483766)
    Going to the dentist for an x-ray gives you more dangerous radiation
    Funny thing about Three Mile Island - one x-ray in the right place and it wouldn't have happened. A few hundred x-rays in a more convenient spot with a dishonest person changing the numbers over, and no-one apart from the dishonest contrator ever looking at those x-rays and it did happen.

    Nuclear safety always should be more than just a guy with a rubber stamp - hopefully three mile island and the subsequent court case changed all of that.

    Those who think nuclear accidents can never happen in the good old USA should consider superior or more expensive technology is worthless if the lowest bidding contactors don't even do the job, and no-one is there to see that they haven't done the job.

    TMI was nothing like Chernobyl.
    Different situation, different outcome, but we can learn from both, so long as we stick to the technical instead of the emotional, and keep nationalism out of it. The lesson I get from Three Mile Island is to watch your contractors - they may not care if what they do can result in a major catastrophe. The lesson I get from Chernobyl is that a steam explosion is far more catastropic when nuclear material can get scattered around - so the design has to avoid that and try to bring it down to a less major incident.

    The main problem with nuclear power today is we keep having to subsidise the plants we have - shutting them down is usually a bigger problem than keeping them going. We just have to pour cash in to keep this 1950's white elephant going - at least in the UK where they are not supported by the same weird financial misdirection that makes the US plants appear to make a profit. Maybe when defence in the USA gets pissed off and wants a bit more of their own budget it will also become clear to people in the USA nuclear plants are made up of a lot of expensive parts and require expensive maintainance - it's not a cheap way to boil water.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @06:25AM (#8483863)
    I know you're trying to make a political point, but it has been estimated that, although different radionuclides were released, the total radioactivity of the material from Chernobyl was 200 times that of the combined releases from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @06:42AM (#8483896)
    Do you know what's the biggest cause of cancer in humans due to chemicals? Salt. Sodium chloride, that is.

    I've never heard of this, and I doubt that it's true. It would be difficult but not impossible to test. Of course, it is generally true that people eat and drink too much sodium, but AFAIK that is more a question of blood pressure, not cancer

    Or perhaps you are thinking of potassium chloride. Naturally occurring potassium is significantly radioactive.

    It is true that the biggest cause of cancer due to radiation is sunshine... but this is ultraviolet radiation. When most people talk about radiation they mean ionizing radiation. Naturally occurring radon is the biggest contributor to the average person's dose of ionizing radiation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @07:38AM (#8484063)
    High levels of mercury are from human pollution released into the environment. While many fish contain acceptable levels of mercury in them, tuna are higher up in the food chain and accumulate higher levels. Do not ever eat tuna. It is seriously unhealthy.
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:5, Informative)

    by kisak (524062) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @07:47AM (#8484079) Homepage Journal
    It is very well documented the relationship between high radiation and cancer. The best known study is from Hiroshima [hiroshima.jp], where there was found clear correlations between the rate of cancer and the amount of radiation that people were exposed to. As the study shows, the peak of leukimia was 7-8 years after the atom bomb was dropped.

    The link between radiation and cancer has much to do with the increased mutation rate of DNA caused by radiation, which is natural since most cancers are caused by changes in the DNA of a cell. I find it difficult to see why you try to deny this?

    It is too bad, but I guess because of the Soviet Union and the turmul in the years after the Soviet Union disintegrated, there has not been done real studies on the wildlife of Chernobyl. (There has been done many studies on the radiaton effects on humans in Chernobyl [ratical.org].) But since all life is related to DNA, there is no doubt that the animals and plants in the area has been seriously affected. Can you show any scientific study that has shown no impact on nuclear radiation on wildlife, we would like to hear about it. And remember, radiation is one thing, but plutonium is one of the mosth leathal chemical poisons in its own right, so if the radiations doesn't get you, the radioactiv chemicals is there for you to worry about the. Again, it is quite natural that plutonium and other radioactive isotops made in a nuclear plant are poisonous, since because they don't excist naturally in nature, organisms have not evolved protections against them.

  • Distributed Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kalak (260968) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @07:53AM (#8484091) Homepage Journal
    Instead of just karma whore with a wget, I made a listing for the Distributed Mirror Project [wolffelaar.nl] of the site. I added the mirrors listed here (that I could connect to), and they are listed on the DMP page for this site [wolffelaar.nl]

    This way I'm Karma whoring for doing some real work for this wonderful site she made, and oh yeah. /. will get something after it uses her bandwidth up (unless someone had graciously upgraded her account, in which case mod me to oblivion - I've got karma to burn.)
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:2, Informative)

    by EaterOfDog (759681) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @08:02AM (#8484107)
    One thing that is often overlooked about radiation exposure is the fact that radioactive particles WITHIN your body are much more dangerous than just being exposed to radiation. Alpha radiation can be stopped by PAPER, but if a particle lodges within your body (say, your lungs), that constant stream of alpha radiation (as well as the beta and gamma of course) becomes extremely dangerous. It may already be too late, but she should be wearing at least a breathing mask in this area. Sad, sad.
  • Re:Three Mile Island (Score:5, Informative)

    by edxwelch (600979) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @08:07AM (#8484114)
    What really blew up Chernobyl was the dangerous experiment that they were carrying out at the time. Even though the design was unstable in principle it was very difficult to get it into that state. They actually had to de-acivate dozens of safeguards before they could run the reactor at very low power, and that was the point where it was unstable.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @08:12AM (#8484125)
    One mirror so far (I've voted the rest as "good", I found it pointed back to angelfire, as the original site used absolute links.)

    A few have page16.html, some do not.

    replying to myself, but posting AC.

    Kalak
  • by edxwelch (600979) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @08:23AM (#8484142)
    From what I read about the Chernobyl disaster it wasn't really the reactor design that was at fault but the dangerous experiments that were being carried out at the time.

    "The disaster began with a routine operation for maintenance and fuel change that commenced a day before the accident. In addition to these procedures, the technical crew wanted to perform a test of the plant's steam turbines. Their goal was to determine if the turbines would continue to provide power for the plant's safety systems after their steam supply was cut off. While attempting to perform this test, they committed a series of errors that culminated in catastrophe. More than simple blunders, the errors stemmed from a reckless disregard for safety procedures. The errors compounded, and the disaster would likely not have occurred if any one error had been avoided.

    The crew began by reducing the reactor's power so they could start their experiment. They also switched off the reactor's emergency core cooling system. This meant that in the event of a malfunction the reactor would become dangerously hot, which is exactly what subsequently happened. At 12:28 A.M. the crew made another serious error by putting the reactor's regulator at much too low a setting for the planned experiment. At this point, the reactor should have been shut down and the experiment abandoned, but the crew feared a reprimand for the incorrect regulator setting, so they decided to bring the reactor back up to power. To do this, they removed most of the graphite rods that moderated the fissioning of nuclear materials in the reactor core. By 1:00 A.M., the power output had reached 200 MW, still too low for the experiment. At this point, they switched on two extra pumps for the circulation of more cooling water in the core. This action made the reactor highly unstable, and water and steam levels began to oscillate uncontrollably. The crew then made another major mistake by blocking the automatic shut-down system. At 1:23, they started their experiment, and a few seconds later they switched off the safety apparatus that would have come into operation as soon as the turbines stopped.

    In less than a minute, the crew chief realized that he had a serious problem, and he ordered the graphite rods to be reinserted in the core. The rods did not fall home, probably because the rods or the nuclear fuel had been distorted by the heat. The rods were then disconnected so that they could fall into the core, but by this time the situation was hopeless. The reactor's power surged from 7 percent to several hundred times its normal level. An explosion rocked the core, followed by another one 4 seconds later. These explosions blew the roof off of the reactor and caused the collapse of a refueling crane into the core, destroying what was left of the cooling system. A reaction of the steam with the fuel rods' zirconium cladding caused the formation of hydrogen, which then ignited, setting off 30 separate fires through the plant. The graphite in the core also ignited."
    http://www.fofweb.com/Subscription/Scie nce/Helicon .asp?SID=2&iPin=ffests0172

  • Chernobyl heart (Score:2, Informative)

    by yarisbandit (608829) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @10:06AM (#8484415) Homepage
    Don't forget to keep an eye out for this years Oscar winning short documentary Chernobyl Heart. Imagine if a tragedy like this hit some built up part of the western world - in the states or the u.k. etc...

    The documentary was made in collaboration with Adi Roche and the Chernobyl childrens project [chernobyl-ireland.com], which is worth special mention...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @10:10AM (#8484425)
    Actually, it *was* partly the reactor design that was to blame, as well as operator error.

    The Chernobyl design had control rods entering the core from top and bottom. This particular design causes the reactor to have, in certain operating regions, a positive temperature coefficient of reactivity (like positive feedback for you non-nukes.) This has the effect of the reactor power level rising in response to a rise in temperature - and in response to the bottom control rods rising into the core.

    Western designs are almost all designed to have a negative temperature coefficient of reactivity in operating regions.

    What happened was, as the reactor temperature rose, power followed, such that when they finally tried to shutdown the reactor, reactor power level shot way up (basically, the reactor went prompt critical - some experts have said that the reactor went prompt supercritical - I'm not sure myself since I'd have to go back and research the values for beta and beta-bar that Chernobyl was designed to.) As a result, the power level exceeded design values by a couple hundred times, and the resulting step rise in temperature and pressure caused a massive steam void to form in the reactor, which promptly escaped by rupturing the top of the reactor.

    Had Chernobyl been built to western designs the disaster wouldn't have happened.

    1. Cooling and fuel channels containing thousands of welded joints through which the coolant continually passes vs. a western design consisting of a single pressure vessel that holds the majority of the coolant covering the core with a few loops to circulate water to the steam generators. This makes the design much more prone to a leak in an inaccessible location.

    2. Using graphite instead of water. Graphite has its uses - a power reactor is not one of them.

    3. A positive temperature coefficient of reactivity. If you do *nothing* else, make sure your design has a negative coefficient in all operating regions.

    4. A flimsy steel shed vs. a proper containment. Even when the reactor suffered a steam explosion, a proper containment structure would have caused Chernobyl to be a localized accident resulting in the contamination of the inside of the containment structure, instead of a disaster affecting the entire world.
  • by WolfWithoutAClause (162946) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @10:48AM (#8484596) Homepage
    Cancer is a really common disease anyway. It's the biggest cause of death, bar heart disease, in other countries. Around Chernobyl, most people will naturally blame Chernobyl for all of the cancers, when the vast majority of cancers were/are naturally induced.
  • Re:It's a lesson (Score:2, Informative)

    by True Grit (739797) <edwcogburn@nosPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday March 06, 2004 @11:02AM (#8484659)
    1. Its only when she gets older that she'll realize how stupid she was to drive an open motorcycle through the dead zone without protective gear.


    If you had read her article, you'd know that she wasn't being stupid. The radiation fallout didn't "stick" to the asphault, so it has become quite safe to enter the area as long as you stay outside the buildings and on the asphault/concrete. Why else would the government even allow tour buses, much less folks on motorcycles, to enter the area?

    1. A dosimeter is no protection - it only tells you how much you have ALREADY BEEN irradiated.


    You sound as if you are thinking that any radiation is bad or that radiation itself is bad. The danger from radiation, is mostly a matter of how long you were exposed to it, *not* that you were exposed at all. In extreme cases, of course, like being in the reactor core itself, just being there for a fraction of a second is enough to kill you (later), but for the most part you can enter a radiated area and still be safe as long as you don't stay in the area long enough to accumulate a lethal dose of radiation. Radiation is something that happens every second of every day to every thing on the planet, it is a natural occuring phenomenon, but just like many other things, too much of it can be a bad thing. Note there is a big difference between entering a radiated area, and coming into contact with radioactive fallout, especially if the contact includes inhaling radioatice dust. Its been 18 years since the disaster, the radioactivity is now in the ground and buildings but not in the air (and has also been washed clean from flat hard outside surfaces like concrete and asphault).
  • Re:Three Mile Island (Score:5, Informative)

    by sonofuse (758855) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @11:19AM (#8484740)
    The Operators and Techs at Chernobyl were doing low power Physics testing and trying to take the reactor critical at the time of the accident. The reactor design was stable and proven. The reactor had been just previously shutdown and had been operating at power. While operating at power one of the fission products that is produced is Xenon, an isotope that has a huge microscopic cross-section for absorption for neutrons, and hence a reactor poison. Unknown to the Operators and Techs this Xenon buildup prevented the reactor from going critical to do the low power testing and they kept bypassing safety circuits to achieve criticality. They also kept pulling "rods" to expose more of the core until nearly the entire core was exposed. They achieved criticality and in a short time the worst thing imaginable happened. Xenon burn-off came down the curve and was no longer an inhibitor to neutron population. The resulting super-critical pulse blew the reactor apart, set fire to the graphite moderator, and in general destroyed the physical plant. The rest is history.

    The photojournalist should get some kind of reward for an excellent presentation. This is the best coverage I have seen to date on the results of "Chernobyl".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @11:44AM (#8484871)
    http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/chernobyl_poems/ph otos1.html
  • by ChrisCampbell47 (181542) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @12:15PM (#8485042)
    700 comments and nobody's mentioned this ...

    This past Sunday, the Oscar for Documentary Short went to a film about Chernobyl:

    • http://www.oscars.com/oscarnight/winners/win_331 62.html
    • http://www.oscars.com/nominees/nom_33111.html
    • http://www.documentary.org/festivals/infact.doct ober/infact2003/chernobyl.html
    • http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=1:2 91392
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:00PM (#8485681)
    I've had thyroid cancer, which is really not a lot of fun. The articel and pics are fascinating. Radioactive iodine is the clearest nuclear accident danger because the thyroid gland concentrates iodine to make the hormone controlling metabolic rate - so tiny amounts cause enormous damage immediately.

    The US government is currently, after litigation, paying parts of the medical costs of tens of thousands of "downwinders", of the Hanford WA nuclear site
    http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/torts/const/reca/ index. htm
    (I was further away, but when I was growing up in Indiana, the government was providing Kodak [which used corn fiber from my area to pack film] test schedules to avoid problems with film clouding).

    The amount of radioactive iodine from some famous events:

    Hanford (1944-1957): 737,400 curies of Iodine 131
    Three Mile Island accident (1979): 15 - 24 curies of Iodine 131
    Chernobyl accident (1986) 35 - 49 million curies of Iodine 131
    Nevada Test Site (1951-1970): 150 million curies of Iodine 131

    If you're considering doing a bravado visit, you might consider taking potassium iodide pills first, and while there, stop at some of the children's clinics in Ukraine and Belarus.
  • Re:Gamma World (Score:5, Informative)

    by mesocyclone (80188) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @02:38PM (#8485923) Homepage Journal
    The best guide to the studies on animals and humans, as of a couple of years ago, was a survey article in Science Magazine, one of the leading professional science publications in the world. Rather than relying on the sorts of news reports you reference (which are not scientific and report information from governments which have a major financial stake in blaming all problems on Chernobyl), I'll take Science Magazine any time

    Your evolution based argument is pure supposition, and is unlikely given that there are natural compounds with similar chemical toxicity (other heavy metals) and plenty of natural alpha-emitting natural compounds (e.g. polonium).

    As far as the chemical toxicity, this [isu.edu] says: :The chemical toxicity of plutonium (a heavy metal) is inconsequential alongside the radiation effects.

    In other words, the chemical toxicity is irrelevant.

    Overall, ricin, of Al Qaeda fame, is 10-20 times more toxic than plutonium. Botulinum toxins (the reference bacteria strain for which was found in a refrigerator in Iraq by David Kay's team) is 10,000 times more toxic than plutonium.

    Furthermore, I do not deny that high levels of radiation cause cancer, not to mention radiation sickness. What is not well known is that people live and prosper in areas of very high natural radiation.

    When one looks at low levels of radiation, the sensitivity is undetectable. Low dose radiation level rules are based on an unproven and somewhat implausible theory called Linear, No-threshold Theory (LNT). This theory is used to derive radiation hazard predictions and exposure standards as one of the first uses of the Precautionary Principle. The theory assumes that one can estimate risk at a low level by applying the ratio of that level to a high level where the risk as been established. The risks for low level radiation dosages are hypothetical, having been derived by this ratioing from populations exposed to much higher dosages (uranium miners, Hiroshima/Nagasaki survivors).

    Furthermore, the risk is presumed to be based on total lifetime dosage independent of the rate of exposure. Again, this has not been established scientifically.

    You mention Hiroshima. Because Hiroshima had no local fallout, all excess radiation exposure occurred in an extremely short period of time - most of it in a few seconds. Furthermore, the levels of dosage received by Hiroshima victims had to be estimated, which could not be done accurately.

    There are several problems with LNT. First, it is based on a very old, discredited model of carcinogenesis which assumes that a single point mutation in DNA is the cause of cancer. In fact, the process is far more complex, with cells having the ability to repair mutations.

    This means that the odds of acquiring non-repairable damage are higher if the radiation is delivered more quickly, because a single cell may sustain multiple hits. There may also be secondary effects, due to the death of an excessive number of cells at the same time.

    great radiobiologist, the late Harald Rossi summarized the situation as follows: "It would appear...that radiation carcinogenesis is an intricate intercellular process and that the notion that it is caused by simple mutations in a unicellular response is erroneous. Thus, there is no scientific basis for the "linearity hypothesis" according to which cancer risk is proportional to absorbed dose and independent of dose rate at low doses" .

    However, lets just assume that LNT is correct, since it is widely used.

    Consider this (April 2000):

    The Chernobyl catastrophe resulted in vast quantities of radionuclides being released into the global atmosphere, which were easy to measure even high in the stratosphere, and far away at the South Pole . It was a godsend for anti-nuclear activists. Yet according to estimates of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR),
  • Re:Three Mile Island (Score:3, Informative)

    by nolife (233813) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @03:40PM (#8486315) Homepage Journal
    Very good description. Small point to add to those not familiar with nuclear power generation.

    Unknown to the Operators

    They should have known! Specially a group doing "physics testing". Anyone that has ever been anywhere near operating a nuclear power plant knows about Xenon and the key times involved when dealing with Xenon. Reactor power is nothing more then summing the +'s and -'s. Some things add reactivity and some subtract it, when all factors considered equal 0, the reactor is "critical". Of course any factor that changes can easily swing it the other way. Here is a BASIC example scenario with a pressurized water type reactor:

    The operator raises the control rods which adds + reactivity (less control rods to absorb neutrons so the U23x can absorb more), that increases power and causes temperature to increase, temperature increasing causes the water density to go down which adds - reactivity (more space between water molecules so more neutrons can escape the core and not be absorbed by the U23x) and the reactor power goes back down. The final result in a minute or so is the same reactor power but the core temperature went up a few degrees. All of this can easily be calculated on paper based on a current plant design.

    Of course Chernobyl was not a pressurized water reactor and actually had a positive temperature coefficient (as temperature went up, power went up) so it would act differently but the point is the same, all things need considered.

    The effects of poisons, fuel loading, core age, current coolant temperature, and recent previous reactor power history is taught from day 1. For plants operating at consistent power levels, Xenon does stabilize and becomes less of a factor but not something you can forget about by any means. These factors and others are also taken into consideration before starting the reactor, independent parties should calculate at what rod height criticallity should occur (the US Navy requires this on paper by hand using the previous reactor operating logs, design graphs and a calculator). At that point you would realize if you were Xenon precluded (which Chernobyl apparently was). A reactor startup and warmup evolution are the *MOST* demanding for planning and potential for damage. The overall plant is going through many structural stresses due to various rates of temperature and pressure changes and is generally operating further from protective setpoints which means once something gets out of control and fission being momentum based, it takes longer to reach a setpoint before a protective action or operator action can occur, at that point, it may too late.
  • by Scorillo47 (752445) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @03:57PM (#8486402)
    One other place with high levels of radiation is Uranium City

    http://www.interlog.com/~grlaird/uraniumcity.htm l

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @03:57PM (#8486403)
    Pripyat [imdb.com] (1999)
  • Re:Three Mile Island (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 06, 2004 @06:50PM (#8487557)
    It is true that no accident remotely like Chernobyl can happen in the United States. First of all, there is the containment building thing - even if there was a steam explosion, US reactor containment buildings are constructed to take an awful lot of pressure. Second, there's physics.

    One of the main reasons why Chernobyl happened was that the Chernobyl reactor was built so that it could have a positive temperature coefficient. A reactor with a positive temperature coefficient is a reactor in which the reaction feeds itself - the higher your power, the 'better' the reactor works. This can be due to many reasons, among which perhaps the most prominent is that the reactor can be over-moderated (too much moderator, so that, when temperature rises, moderator expands, its density decreases and less of it interferes with the reaction), which was the case with Chernobyl in the particular experiment. I can't claim to understand fully how the Soviet-design Chernobyl type reactor works, but there was something fishy about it so that it could have both a positive and a negative temperature coefficient, depending on the circumstances, and, in the experiment they were doing, they created a positive one. (There was also a lot of personnell incompetence with switching off safety systems involved).

    Now, all US reactors are undermoderated and all have a negative temperature coefficient. Very simply, this means the higher in power you go, the worse the reactor works. Thus, while US reactors can get a fuel meltdown under very, very, VERY specific circumstances (as TMI proved), a more explosive accident is impossible. To a large extent, TMI happened because of personnell incompetence (a hundred safety systems were turned off that should've remained on), but, even with a horde of blunders, the total release of radiation from TMI was comparatively miniscule - studies have shown no effect whatsoever on anyone's health from the incident.

    An ironic thing about Chernobyl that is also observed in US reactors was this: when the reactor scrammed and the control rods first dropped into the core, the power, instead of going down, went up. This is not a danger in US reactors because of the above reasons (the power spike is comparatively small and short-lived), but, in Chernobyl, it added to the mess. It happened because of the thing called neutron flux - the distribution of neutrons in the core (neutrons are what cause fission events - control rods are used to absorb them). When the control rods were first dropped, it so happened that part of the control rods went from a part of the core where there were neutrons to a part where there were none - and, as a result, less neutrons were absorbed and the power increased. . .

    I must note once again: At Chernobyl, they did everything that could be possibly done wrong and the result was a major accident. At TMI, they did everything that could be possibly done wrong (and more, it seemed), and the result was a scare, but no real threat to anyone (only losses to the company running it).

    Hailing from Eastern Europe, I enjoyed the photo gallery a lot. I thought some of it was somewhat irresponsible, though - such as claims about hundreds of thousands of people having died. Many studies show that the total number of deaths due to the accident are in the one (!) hundred (not hundred thousand) range, but numbers have been blown up by soviet and post-soviet governments and all kinds of 'helpful' agencies to attract more pity & aid (and to scare people of nuclear power). Approx. 40 people died from the immediate effects of fighting the accident. There was also a notable rise in thyroid cancer in children born after the accident - but only in thyroid cancer; the incidence of no other cancer was observed to increase. Most other deaths and problems attributed by the media to Chernobyl have been shown to be at no higher levels than in 'test populations' elsewhere in the world (it is, after all, estimated that 20% of all Americans will get cancer in their lives
  • by shadowbearer (554144) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @07:59PM (#8487947) Homepage Journal
    What part of "design, training, and crew quality" did you not understand? What does "foolproof" have to do with it?

    Don't lecture me about training. One of my best friends is a plant operator on a missile sub, and we've had many discussions about the training he receives. Some years ago I also knew a couple operators at the Prairie Island plant in Minnesota, and they were cool, dedicated customers who knew what they were doing. You're comparing apples and oranges here.
    They are all *very* aware of what kinds of mistakes they could make.

    As I've said, in the original post and the responses, I consider the training that the Chernobyl people had to be sub-par - not necessarily because they panicked, but because they allowed the situation to develop in the first place - which, in combination with the bad design, and other factors, caused the whole situation. You might want to read this [time.com] where it says To prevent the automatic safety systems from interfering with the experiment, the technicians disconnected them, opening the way for a chain of fatal mishaps..

    Well trained? So well trained that you disconnect *all* the safety systems to test the design parameters of the turbines?. Yeah, right. Also the very fact that the design of the plant allowed this to lead to the explosion is very well documented.

    So tell me, where, in your 'experience', has this occurred in the US? 3MI? Not hardly. At 3MI the safety systems worked as they were designed to. THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHERNOBYL AND 3MI WAS THAT THE OPERATORS HADN'T DISCONNECTED THEM. At 3MI, the emergency cooling system was even disconnected, yet the other safety systems kept a major catastrophe from happening.

    More modern reactor systems *are* failsafe by design. Yes, there are ways to build them so, that bypass operator error. You need to go do some research.

    Ignorant asshole.

    I'm done with this conversation.

    SB
  • by RayBender (525745) on Saturday March 06, 2004 @08:53PM (#8488269) Homepage
    TMI would have failed safe, except for incorrect operator intervention.

    TMI did fail safe. You had a partial meltdown with only very limited release of short-lived radiactivity (Iodine-131, half-life 8 days). No deaths or injuries.

    It woudn't have failed at all if it hadn't been for incorrect operator intervention.

...when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. - Fred Brooks, Jr.

Working...