Chernobyl, 20 years on....

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by bigandy, Apr 25, 2006.

  1. bigandy macrumors G3

    bigandy

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    #1
    As you may see from BBC News, today marks the 20th anniversary of the worst nuclear accident in history.

    It was one of the first things I remember seeing on TV, and it's something that I've always been interested in finding more about. I've been following the plans for constructing a replacement for the Sarcophagus, starting next year, being in disbelief that they only actually shut the plant's final reactor in December 2000, and been amazed at the influx of wildlife to the area since the disaster. I've seen the chilling photos of ghost towns, gas masks sitting in nurseries, a ferris wheel due to open the week following the disaster, ready to collapse, never used, and the vast, vast "graveyards" of equipment used during the cleanup.

    I'm sure the world will mark this occasion, and ask if nuclear power is either a good or a bad thing (most would agree, that if done right, including safe disposal of waste, and "test runs" such as carried out on that night in 1986 aren't repeated, it is a safe practice - but I don't want this thread to turn in to an argument about the pros and cons of atomic energy), and I'm sure that here in Britain people will have something to say, as it's something that people have to live with - farmers in Wales still have to check livestock for radiation levels before selling them on.

    The legacy of this disaster will live on for centuries, probably millenia. Has the world learnt it's lesson from this catastrophe? (At least they've not built any more of the inherently unsafe RBMK reactors).

    • BBC News In Depth [here]

    • Timeline of Events [here]

    How do you remember it? Anything to say on this anniversary?
     
  2. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #2
    My phd supervisor was one of the people in charge of "safety" or something after the accident. After 2 years, he really wanted to move, and so he got the hell out of there. I think the pressure from the higher-ups was way too high or something.
     
  3. iSaint macrumors 603

    iSaint

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    #3
    National Geographic has a good write up about it in last months issue.

    That is, if any of you read when and if you're not on MacRumors.

    ;) :D
     
  4. XNine macrumors 68040

    XNine

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    #4
    I remember the morning well, actually. I was 4, living in Germany (army brat), and I was wearing my Superman halloween costume. I ran outside and my mother yelled "GET YOUR ASS IN HERE!" she made me take off all of my clothes and she threw them in the washer right away, and told me to stay inside because bad dust could be coming our way.

    Very odd that I remember that. The whole event is truly harrowing.
     
  5. dmw007 macrumors G4

    dmw007

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    #5
    On occasion! ;) :D

    That had to be very scary as a kid. Although, you probably did not fully understand all that was happening :eek:
     
  6. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

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    #6
    The anniversary is still "tomorrow" for me, but I've already read about it and watched a TV report.

    They interviewed an official government photographer who flew over the smoldering reactor, leaned out the open door of a helicopter, and took photos. He must have been exposed to a lot of radiation-laden particles in that short time. I was rather surprised he's still around to tell us the story.

    They still don't know how many deaths from leukemia and other diseases were the direct result of the accident.
     
  7. Lollypop macrumors 6502a

    Lollypop

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    #7
    Saw it on BBC last night as well. Was only 4 so I dont really remember anything. Amazing though that 20 years later so many countries are still using nuclear and so many more plants are being considered.
     
  8. Queso macrumors G4

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    #8
    Just a quick question to the science bods here:-

    How much radioactive material was ejected into the environment from the explosion at Chernobyl compared to the amount released over the years by nuclear weapons testing?

    This isn't a quiz, as I don't know the answer. I'm hoping someone else here knows.
     
  9. dobbin macrumors 6502a

    dobbin

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    #9
    No-one really knows what percentage of the radioactive material in the reactor was ejected in the blast, and what proportion remains inside the sarcophagus.

    It is estimated that at least 100 times more radioactive material was released at Chernobyl than by the 2 nuclear weapons droppped on Hiroshima and Nagosaki in 1945. I don't know about all the other nuclear bomb tests.

    BBC linky
     
  10. bigandy thread starter macrumors G3

    bigandy

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    #10
    I think that this is a rather shortsighted view. We need a source of energy that's not going to remove all the oil or coal from the ground, and run relatively cleanly. I'm not saying it's all fine, safe, and clean, but what I am saying is that if done right, it can be safe. It produces far more electricity than other sources, often for less.

    New stations are being considered all the time, but remember, designs and safety has improved vastly since this accident - there were only 13 RBMK reactors ever built, and there aren't many left. The four at Chernobyl have been shut down, as have two others, and the rest will be shutting within the next 15 years or so, apparently. This is a big step forward to making nuclear a safer system.

    Just because the Shuttle's exploded once or twice doesn't mean we should stop exploring space, does it?
     
  11. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #11
    I can. Pretty much every single safety measure and procedure was either turned off/bypassed (ie: they were annoying to work with), or completely ignored. Whand everything those people could have done wrong WAS done wrong in a place and time where they didn't know as much as we know today, and they didn't see what we saw when Chernobyl went down.

    So really, the only way it could happen again with even MORE safety measures built in, and even more people worried about health and safety, is if every single employee was an idiot, and they all worked in a place that was very lax when it came to everything. That's extremely unlikely, since many countries are a lot more anal about safety procedures and random safety checks than the people at Chernobyl were.

    Again, it was a different time.
     
  12. AndyR macrumors 6502a

    AndyR

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    #12
    Sounds like the local council I used to work at....Thankfully I left there a long time ago :D
     
  13. mintlivedotcom macrumors regular

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    #13
  14. joepunk macrumors 68030

    joepunk

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    #14
    I think I was only 3 at the time. Don't remember anything of the events of that year.
     
  15. Nuc macrumors 6502a

    Nuc

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    #15
    To comment on some of the things said about why they are going to build new nuclear power plants. The new designs are based on passive safety. This means that if everything goes wrong the plant can pretty much run itself. Natural circulation will take over if the pumps are tripped which will cool the system. Additionally they have minimized the number of components (valves, piping, etc.) on the new reactors such as the AP1000 that are going to be built which will cause less problems.

    The new generation reactors are built very well and must meet approval by the NRC which is a stringent process.
     
  16. AppleMatt macrumors 68000

    AppleMatt

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    #16
    The main difference isn't in quantity, but control. Nuclear weapons testing is a very tightly regulated and over-seen process done at a reasonable distance from populations. Nuclear meltdown (partial in this case) is uncontrollable, as are the environmental factors and the initial government silence over the issue.

    Additionally, are you familiar with the concept of half-life? The more dangerous a radioactive particle is, the shorter it lasts. So everyone near the site for the minutes, hours, days immediately after the disaster were in grave danger compared to someone who went and set up camp for a month now.

    Basically: it's impossible to assess the real effects of Chernobyl due to the totalitarian control and destruction of information surrounding the disaster. The worry now is that the sarcophagus will collapse before the new one is constructed, releasing as much or more radioactive dust as the initial blast. Some believe 95% of the fuel was released in the blast, others think that 90% of it remains within the remains of the reactor.

    AppleMatt
     
  17. Raid macrumors 68020

    Raid

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    #17
    iGav posted a link to that site some time ago here. (one of his best finds :) ) It left such an impression on me I thought of it when I read the title to this thread... I hope we won't see anything like this again.
     
  18. joepunk macrumors 68030

    joepunk

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    #18
    There is some allegations that her trip on a motorcycle was exagerated

    She went to Chernobyl alright, and visited all of those places it seems, but she did it in a car with her husband and a friend - possibly even as part of an organized tour. But, that does not mean that the images are not moving, compelling and disturbing. I still like them.
     

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