Wasteland Essay, Research Paper


On April 1986, Soviet’s Union Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded

letting out a massive amount of radiation that would debate of all

Russian citizens for hundreds of years to come. At exactly 1:21 am. on

April, 1986 inChernobyl, a city near the Pripiat River the No. 4

reactor exploded and released thirty to forty times the radiation of

the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombing. The exact causes of the explosion

are not known , however scientists and researchers, under thorough

investigation, have uncovered possible causes to the explosion.1 The

main reason why the explosion occurred was that, the operators of the

plant were attempting to conduct an experiment with the emergency

cooling system turned off, they made six fatal errors which sealed

everyone’s fate. Soviet officials clamed that if the technicians,

would have avoided at least one of those mistakes, then the plant

could have been saved.

The technicians began the test one day before the explosion.

They started reducing the reactor’s power level so they could run the

turbine experiment. However in order for the plant to run at lower

power they had to turn off the automatic control system, which powered

all emergency limitations that the plant should make in case it goes

out of control. Turning of the cooling system was an unnecessary

action and though it did not cause the explosion, it made the

consequences more fatal. Just then the operator’s receive a call from

the local grid controller in Kiev, who needed the power and asked the

technicians to stop lowering it, at what they obeyed. Once that was

done the reactor was running with out the cooling system , which was a

very serious mistake. At 11:10 p.m. the grid controller said he no

longer needed the power, and the operators returned to reducing the

power. At twenty minutes past midnight the operators forgot to set the

regulator properly, it was the second fatal error. Because of the

incorrect regulator settings the reactor’s power crashed to 30 MW from

1,000 MW which is too low for the test. At that point the operators

would have abandoned the experiment, but they attempted to rescue it,

for the next time they would be able to conduct would be in one year

only. The senior authorities who had ordered the test would have been

furious and would have found out the regulator problem. So the

operators decided, to pull out the stops to restore the reactor’s

power.2 Their third fatal mistake, was the pulling out of control

rods. The plant’s rule was to have thirty in at all times however they

left all but six. By 1:00 Am the power risen to 200 MW, which was

still to low for the experiment, however the operators continued. In a

few minutes they made their fourth fatal error, by turning on two

extra pumps to join the six that wee already cooling the core. This

procedure under such low power caused a massive steam disorder. Their

fifth fatal error was the turning off of the automatic shut off, which

would turn off the reactor. At 1:23 a.m. on Saturday April 26, the

workers began the actual experiment. They made their sixth error, by

turning off the last safety system. It took the shift manager thirty

seconds to realize what was happening and shouted at another operators

to press button AZ-5 which would driven all the control rods back into

the core, but because the rods were melted from serious heat they

didn’t fit properly into the core. As the manager gloomy eyed looked

down at the control panel several loud banging noises were heard.

Immediately the one thousand tone roof of the reactor blew off sky

high, and brought down the giant two hundred tone refueling crane onto

the core, destroying more cooling systems and 30 fires spread around

the plant. Finally the over-heating and steam build up caused a second

explosion which destroyed the reactor and part of the building. The

graphite began to burn ferociously once exposed to air, as core

reached temperatures as high as 2,800o F a massive amount of

radioactive dust was let out into the air which was picked by winds

and carried thousands of miles into every direction. As well, previous

to the testing the technicians, drew up plans, but did not discuss

them with physicists or nuclear safety staff at the plant. Though they

send experiment plans to the designers of the plant, the designers

never got a chance to take a look and never issued any authority or

made any confirmation. All soviet officials were certain that the

explosion occurred not because of the plant, but because of human

negligence. “The engineer who designed the plant and it’s safety

systems did not include such a scenario in his project” said Valeri

Legasov, fist deputy director of the Kurchatov Atomic Institute.

During an interview with Legasov, he stated that many discussions

about the test have been going on and not everyone agreed to the test

ever being conducted. However not everyone was satisfied with the

ignorant technicians theory and researchers proposed an additional

theory. Unlike Chernobyl the power plants in the rest of the world

have a contaminant structure which is a huge reinforced concrete dome

designed to prevent radioactive materials from escaping during an

accident. Like one West German nuclear scientist Rudolf Schulten said

“The reactor itself is a very old-fashioned type, and the safety

philosophy of this reactor would never be accepted today by any

country in the Western World.” A U.S official agrees and sais that

“Has it been designed as reactors in the U.S and the rest of the world

the reactor would not have been destroyed. 6

When the reactor exploded and the core began to burn Soviet

officials tried as hard as they could to put out the fire. It took

them twelve long days to finally put out the deviating fire. Unlike

in any other explosion where the radioactive materials would remain

buried in the ground the Chernobyl graphite fire sucked in oxygen and

spewed radioactive isotopes in the air. 7 Immediately without any

explanation, residents from the Chernobyl area were quickly evacuated.

Over 50,000 people were transported by Kiev buses. Only by Monday

morning did people start getting suspicious. Monitoring stations in

other parts of the country reported radiation levels up to one hundred

times normal. By that afternoon Swedish scientists found isotopes like

krypton, xenon, iodine, cesium and cobalt in the fallout-a radioactive

mix that could only have come from an accident of a reactor. The

Swedes concluded that a meltdown occurred somewhere. Later on they

determined when the cloud arrived and what rout it took, so the began

backtracking. They were able to draw a line going through Latvia over

Moscow and into Minsk. However further testing proved that Cernobyl

was the site of the meltdown. In Kiev things were going smooth joggers

jogged, kids played outside and life was going just the same. However

other countries were well aware of what was going on and immediately

evacuated more then 200 tourists out of Kiev. But even though that

Soviet Union claimed that it was not dangerous to be outside radiation

levels soared, and the government gave out an iodine solution to

children under 16, and as far as Tokyo it was recommended in

newspapers not to drink rainwater. In an interview in Hamburg, Yeltzin

said that 49,000 people have been evacuated and that 20 to 25 people

were seriously ill, and that 40 more people received fatal doses of

radiation “but definitely not hundreds or thousands as reported by the

Western press.”

However the festivities in Kiev were in progress and parades

with flashing red flags covered the streets. Poland was the country

worst affected by the radiation in all of Europe toddlers were

treated with iodine and milk was dumped out. In other countries

radiation spread as well. In Italy border patrols halted thirty two

freight cars loaded with cattle, sheep and horses from Poland. After a

week they send it back and banned all imports of meat, livestock and

vegetables. In Britain Members of London Festival Ballet canceled the

Soviet Union tour which would be the first one in twenty five years.

Besides that a wide concern spread through all about milk and water.

In West Germany, citizens were urged to keep children inside and stay

out of the rain which carried radiation. 8 In Minsk all were advised

to stay inside, shut the windows and wash often. As well not to eat

leafy vegetables, not at too much meat and also stay out of the rain.

Iodine pills were distributed among all. Radiation spread as far as

Ottawa, Canada where radiation was six times as much as normal rates.

With the worry of citizens all shipment of fruit from Europe was

stopped. Even in upstate New York radiation was found and many went

out to buy iodine tablets. With all the radiation killing and

injuring people Soviet Union successfully covered up the truth from

all the citizens and reporters fro a long time. “People were clueless”

my own mom said “We carried on life as usual, looking back now I

realize now, that the government didn’t give a dam about the people,

otherwise they would have stopped pretending to be such a perfect

country and fess up” she added. Indeed the Soviet government held back

the truth and left it’s people wander the streets of death. Only after

violent protests from Sweden and some Western countries did Soviet

Union admitted that the disaster occurred. However they told such

limited information that awful rumors began to spread. Some said

that more than 2,000 people died and were bulldozed into large graves.


Most Soviet citizens were disappointed in the president, because

Gorbachev promised that once he became president all secrecy was to

end. However when Gorbachev was asked to tell more, the Kremlin shut

it’s doors and acted same as they did many years ago. It wasn’t bad

enough that the Kremlin covered up the deaths the put the people in

imminent danger only for saving their face. 11 But to others, outside

from soviet Union the cover-up was of no surprise. Disasters ranging

from plane crashes to fires were never admitted to anyone. In 1957

when a nuclear-waste pant exploded and spewed contaminants over

hundreds of square miles in the southern Ural Mountains. More then

hundreds of people died, and for years afterward the area was a

radioactive wasteland. Only in the 1970s did a Russian scientist in

exile, Zhores Medvedev, published the story. Even then, the Kremlin

did not acknowledge that, the explosion ever happened. Many Russians

accept the Soviet government’s actions, to cover up any bad things.

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