Chornobyl (3)

Mon 18 Apr 2011 07:57
Reactor 4 was now more stable but there were still 2 big dangers â (1) the underground aquifer becoming contaminated, & (2) radionuclides continuing to escape through the breached roof into the atmosphere.  I didnât gather how, or if, they dealt with the escape of material downwards.  But an amazing project followed to deal with (2).
It was now apparent that nobody could be exposed to the site for more than a few minutes to minimise radiation dosage.  They drafted in thousands more soldiers & territorials, and worked on a rota basis, going on the roof, shovelling the radioactive debris that had accumulated from the initial explosion, & throwing it to the ground to be carted away (to where, I donât know).  Some got sick after only 1 session, some went up 4 or 5 times before they got sick.
They then constructed a huge sarcophagus to totally cover the building, partly with man power, partly with robots.  When you see it, it looks like a massive, delapidated IKEA building, with loads of scruffy scaffolding, and an enormous chimney.  This sarcophagus is now 25 years old and nearing the end of its life, and they are constructing a new one to cover the whole thing.
There is nothing inside the building, the core is all in the ground and consists of thousands of cubic metres of radionuclides, much of which is plutonium, which has a half life of thousands of years.  This means that, after ? 3,000 years, half of it will be gone, & after another 3,000 years, it will be halved again, & so on. It has been there for 25 years and only a tiny fraction of it has been disposed of âsafelyâ.
Plutonium gives off alfa radiation, which isnât very penetrating, but gets absorbed into the ground, crops, and , eg, animal bones.  Our guide demonstrated this with a geiger counter on a piece of deer antler on the ground. So you can go there for short periods safely but if you live there and eat food grown on contaminated land, you are in trouble.  The radiation level on the sarcophagus roof would cause acute, fatal radiation sickness if you were up there for just a few hours.
The other (?4) reactors continued to be used to supply electricity for some time but were closed down some years later when it was realised that reactor 4 was going to remain a problem.
This whole episode happened in the thick of the cold war, and cost the soviet government billions.  It was highly instrumental in bringing the cold war to a n end.
Letâs send this now.