Chernobyl – what is this radioactive place. Part 1 – for nerds 🤓

Malvina Dunder Travel blog, adventures, mindful living. Podróże, przygody, świadome życie. Czarnobyl. Chernobyl

Chernobyl is a place of the worst nuclear disaster in 1986 at the No. 4 nuclear reactor in the Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian SSR.

The accident started during “a safety test”…

The Soviet Union delayed announcement of disaster or just wanted to cover it up but radiation levels set off alarms in Sweden (over 1,000 kilometres from the Chernobyl Plant).

People from the area were evacuated (three days after the catastrophe) and everything left behind. It is a ghost city. 

The official information was 30 deaths, according to the Soviet Union, other sources talked about: 4000 – 60 000 people. It is really hard to estimate as the radiation is invisible. It may cause a visible damage to the body but also causes diseases like cancer or mutations of DNA that may last for generations. Also it is not possible to count the massive amount of abortions after the catastrophe and other consequences. That’s still not the final count, we have to remember about all the other victims (not only people, but also flora & fauna) and our planet Earth.

Imagine the invisible, lethal dust released into the atmosphere, spreading with the wind all over the world, eventually falling into the ground and waters, and it cannot disappear for hundreds or thousands years. 

I’d like to underline that it did not happen in the country we know now. It happened in the Soviet era under the communist regime – one of the most destructive systems in the history. And Ukraine has to pay for their actions. To some extent, we all do.

The Ukrainian government has permitted entry into the surrounding areas of Chernobyl, but with strict conditions. To enter the 30km exclusion zone, you need a day pass.

The zones are abandoned from 1986 and now it looks like a jungle, trees and bushes everywhere, on the roads, covering buildings. Really strange view.

Main roads were rebuilt after the disaster so they are not that radioactive now.

There are people working in the all three zones. It’s not totally abandoned because someone has to secure the area.

There are also old ladies living in the third zone, they are around 90 years old and wanted to go back to their lands. Ukrainian government allowed them to live there but only in that zone, which is the least contaminated.

Most of the deadly dangerous radioactive gases and particles had been released in the first weeks of the disaster in 1986. The points in Pripyat and Chornobyl where there is still risky or deadly levels of radioactive emanations are the places where the mass of radioactive fuel remains. Those are the places like under the Sarcophagus of Unit 4, in 2 paths surrounding the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, The‘Red Forest’ trees, a wide range of technical equipment that is now resting and getting rusty on the machine graveyard in Rossoha.

The disaster produced the “largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded” and mostly had an immediate impact on Ukraine, Belarus and West Russia.

The presence of strong winds in the atmosphere that night pushed radioactive fallout further into Europe and Scandinavia.

To fully understand the situation, let’s remind ourselves what really is this radiation 🤓

What Is Radioation?

Radiation is all around us – solar rays, concrete buildings, radioactive particles from food, water, ground, X-rays, even our bodies are sources of radiation. 

Background radiation is present on Earth at all times. Cosmic radiation comes from energetic particles from the sun and stars that enter Earth’s atmosphere.

There are three main types of radioactivity: alpha, beta and gamma:

  • Alpha radiation can be stopped completely by a sheet of paper or by the thin surface layer of our skin. However, if alpha-emitting materials are taken into the body by breathing, eating, or drinking, they can expose internal tissues directly and may, therefore, cause biological damage.
  • Beta radiation is more penetrating than alpha and can pass through 1-2 centimetres of water. In general, a sheet of aluminum a few millimetres thick will stop beta radiation.
  • Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation similar to X-rays, light, and radio waves. Gamma rays, depending on their energy, can pass right through the human body, but can be stopped by thick walls of concrete or lead.

Although we cannot see or feel the presence of radiation, it can be detected and measured in the most minute quantities with quite simple radiation measuring instruments, like f.eks. the Geiger counter / Geiger – Muller meter.

The impact of radiation on the any living organism and environment:

  • Ioninzing radiation destroys cells and DNA. 
  • May cause diseases and mutations (thet may last for generations).
  • The contaminated areas can be uninhabitable for dozens, hundreds or thousands years. 
  • We cannot just get rid of it, only cover it until it is naturally decayed.

Radioactivity is invisible and that’s the problem. We also cannot see its indirect impact.

It is estimated that the area inside the Chernobyl plant will not be habitable for another 20 000 years… I’ve heard that outside the plant it will be safer in 180-320 years. It is based on the half lives of isotopes which is a time of decay.

The sarcophagus & the New Safe Confinement (the new shelter)

The biggest question since the catastrophe has been what to do with 200 tons of radioactive corium, 30 tons of highly contaminated dust and 16 tons of uranium and plutonium… and to take under consideration that the corium is still generating heat and melting down, will be warm and radioactive for the next centuries.

At first it was all covered with concrete. It may sound simple but it was incredibly complicated and most of the people who were cleaning up this mess died.

It was estimated that this concrete cover will protect for around 20-30 years, so the scientist have been working on the better solution and build the New Shelter. 

It is a massive steel and concrete structure covering the nuclear reactor number 4 building of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It was designed to limit radioactive contamination. Started in September 2010, completed in the end of 2018, officially July 2019.

The present shelter is constructed on top of the ruins of the reactor building. The first one, built after the catastrophe was not enough to prevent from a very high radiation after all these years.

The new sarcophagus is built to protect the Earth for 100 years.
Project took 5 million hours for the companies.
The cost is about 2.1 billion EUR. (Founded by 45 countries).
The construction is one of a kind.
It is the largest mobile structure.
It is so huge that it would cover the Eiffel tower and the Statue of Liberty.
About 2,200 people from 21 countries worked on the construction site.

However, the most difficult works (in the old collapsing concrete sarcophagus) will start in the future.

So far we don’t have a better technology to fix the problem.

What does it mean, is that a human and robot cannot work there. In 1986 a person could work in that area for maximum 1 minute and died afterwards. Now, in 2019 the limit for one person for a one whole year is 12 minutes. Machines are not able to work there neither. 

And we don’t have a planet B…

Swipe right to see how Chernobyl looks today ->

If you want to learn more about Chernobyl, check my Instagram and stories☢️

Malvina Dunder with love to planet Earth. Travel adventures & conscoius living. Blog podróżniczy, świadome życie, z miłości do planety Ziemi
Books e-books, Malvina Dunder, książki, ebook

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