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The following excerpts come from the book, Chernobyl, Insight from the Inside,
© 1991, by Springer-Verlag,
and are reproduced here with permission of the publisher.




Chernobyl, Insight from the Inside

by Vladimir M. Chernousenko,
Scientific Director of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences
Institute of Physics in Kiev's Task Force for the
Rectification of the Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident



Foreward, pp. XVI-XVII, From the Publisher:

          The author's chief motivation for writing this book is that he considers it vitally important that the world should be told the unvarnished truth about the scale and consequences of the disaster, the legacy of which will remain with us for many generations. He presents realistic estimates and new unpublished hard data from various reliable sources about the radiation pollution caused by the accident. The figures prove to be much higher than anyone dared assume up to now. We are confronted with horrendous numbers regarding the radiation pollution of the soil and aquifers in the Soviet Union. On the basis of these data, it is estimated that a territory of a least 100,000 km^2 is so polluted as to be uninhabitable. There are even estimates of an amount three times as high.
          The author's greatest concern is the well-being of the people still living in this huge territory. Many of those who are still living in the polluted areas want to leave, but the problems posed by local administration and bureaucracy do not allow them to do so. For lack of precedence, the effects on their health in the long-term can only be guessed at, at the present time. But those effects are already beginning to become evident. The health statistics included in this book are a matter of serious concern and urgently call for further investigations.

 
Chapter 1, pp. 9-10:

A more official view on `The Nuclear Accident in Block 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station and the Safety of the RBMK Reactor' give the following excerpts from an unpublished report by A.A. Yadrikhinskii, Nuclear Safety Inspection Engineer of the USSR State Atomic Energy Survey Commission (Kurchatov town, RSFSR February, 1988):
. . . Radiation emission was no less that 80% of the core (with a total of 192 tons), which amounted to 6.4 x 10^9 Ci.[16] If we divide the figure by the population of the whole earth (4.6 x 10^9 people) then we get 1 Ci per person.[17]
          The radiation levels of the emissions from the Chernobyl disaster exceed 16 to 27 times the maximum figure estimated as resulting from a hypothetical accident, in which the fuel rods melt down and the safety mechanisms are destroyed -- this maximum figure was calculated as 3-5% of the core content.
          It is practically impossible to eliminate all radioactive substances from the subsoil and soil in the contaminated area. It is also not reasonable to hope for natural decay of the radiation. The radiation levels given off by the substances emitted from the reactor will in the first 100 years decrease 5 times from 5 x 10^12 to 1 x 10^12 and, in 1000 years, 1000 times to 1 x 10^9.
          One way of illustrating the danger is to calculate the volume of water required to dilute the radioactive material to the maximum permissible concentration. The 15 m^3 of radioactive substances emitted from Block 4 at this time could be diluted in 15 x 5 x 10^12 = 75,000 km^3 of water. In 100 years, 15,000 km^3 would be needed. In 1000 years 15 km^3 would be the required amount. For comparison: the total outflow of the world's rivers is 36,380 km^3 -- i.e., its use to dilute the radiation would take 50 years before the radioactive emission from Chernobyl will be brought down to the permissible level.
          Disasters on the scale of the Chernobyl accident lead to harmful effects on the population, territorial lossess without any military action, and to thousands of billions of roubles'[18] worth of damage, and are, therefore, hard to justify by the need for electric power.
          It was the secrecy and lack of accountability of our nuclear science, and its refusal to open itself up to discussion and criticism which made it possible for dangerous design faults to lead finally to a nuclear accident of this scale. No technical design plan of any one of the existing nuclear power stations in the USSR is available. The Soviet nuclear industry presents its projects as works of near-genius so that they apparently feel that reactor design deficiencies and infringemnets of safety regulations have to be hushed up to go unnoticed and -- what is significantly worse -- uncorrected for years and even decades. Economical reactor operation is pursued at a definite cost in terms of nuclear safety.
__________________


  1. The old unit for the activity was the Curie [Ci] which has been replaced by the Becquerel [Bq]; 1 Bq = 1/s implying one decay per second. 1 Ci = 3.7 x 10^10 Bq and 1 Bq ~= 2.7 x 10^-11 Ci ~= 27 pCi. See also the Appendix.
  2. Naturally, the implications are not that everybody received such a dose, but such crude numbers certainly help to illustrate the scale of the accident.
  3. At that time 1 rouble was roughly $1.5.

Foreward, pp. XVII-XVIII, From the Publisher:

          For several years after the accident a true disclosure was withheld from the residents of the affected region (and from the world). Unavoidable consequences are that even correct information on radioactive contamination, on radiation doses, and on the resultant health risks is now met with disbelief, and that conflicting information is abundant. Even in regions with less radioactive contamination the people are uncertain and frightened, and even in these regions they accept grave constraints -- especially with regard to food -- that make normal living conditions impossible, and in many cases they want to leave their villages, even when this does not seem to be necessary from the radiological point of view. This includes many settlements and cities that could well be saved.
          The misguided information policy of the past has made it almost impossible for the Soviet administration to now arrive at acceptable terms with the residents of the afflicted areas of the Soviet Union.

 


V. M. Chernousenko

 

Chernobyl

Insight from the Inside

 


With 124 figures and 47 tables
 










          Springer-Verlag
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Dr. Vladimir M. Chernousenko
Institute for Theoretical Physics
Adademy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR
Metrologicheskaya 14 b
SU-252130 Kiev
USSR

ISBN 3-540-53698-1 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York
ISBN 0-387-53698-1 Springer-Verlag New York Berlin Heidelberg

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1991 Printed in Germany

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Reprinted here with permission from Ian Gross at Springer Verlag, N.Y.

 


 


Dedication





               To those who went through the Special 
               Zone and to the people living in the 
               radiation poisoned territory since 1986.






































 


Preface

 





The Myths of Chernobyl,

and why I Wrote This Book

 
              Accidents at nuclear power stations happen.
              Between 1971 and 1986, in 14 countries,
              there were 152 accidents.
                From information provided by the
                International Atomic Energy Agency
               
              
              
              "It is not enough for a handful of experts
              to attempt the solution of a problem,
              to solve it and then to apply it.

              The restriction of knowledge
              to an elite group
              destroys the spirit of society
              and leads to its intellectual impoverishment."

                  Albert Einstein
 

I must help to dispel some dangerous myths. After the Chernobyl disaster the polarization of public opinion with regard to nuclear power as a source of energy became even more pronounced than before. At one extreme are the representatives of the nuclear industry, who believe, despite the growing scale of nuclear reactor accidents that the development of nuclear power must continue at an unrelenting pace. At the other extreme, we find the "Greens" and others demanding the immediate shut-down of all operating reactors and a ban on future construction of nuclear power stations.
          In my view, both extremes are too simplistic.
          In the history of civilization there have been occasions when people could not refrain from developing hazardous industrial processes. Nuclear power is, of course, the most prominent example. We must accept the facts and our enormous energy requirements, but it is also important not to forget that attempts to economize on safety provisions in such hazardous industries result in increased risk. And these increased risks may result in terrible tragedy, even in disasters whose consequences exceed national boundaries. It is certainly true that a nuclear power station working safely without any accident, is ecologically one of the cleanest of all industrial plants. However, a single accident, like the one at Chernobyl, can negate all advantages for centuries to come.
          If we feel, therefore, that we do not now have the ideas and resources to create absolutely effective radiation safeguards, then it would be better to call a halt today. Tomorrow may be too late.
          Unfortunately, international public opinion has already been confused by the myths concerning the causes and scale of the Chernobyl disaster and its consequences for millions of people. Probably, the birth of these myths may be traced back to the articles published in the Soviet press in May 1986. The public was assured that "the heroes of Chernobyl" were "entering the Zone", "studying the situation", "bringing the reactor in Block 4 under control", "bringing the situation under control".
          In reality, no means were available to bring the reactor or even the whole situation under control. The reactor was dead. Its radioactive core had already been torn apart by the explosion. Almost all the radioactivity it could release, had already been set free by May 10, 1986. Millions of Curies of radionuclides from the gutted reactor had been scattered across the face of the earth. A transnational nuclear disaster had already happened.
          Then was not the time to save the nuclear power station, but to save the people -- those living far beyond the boundaries of the 30-km Zone. However, the Government Commission charged with the rectification work (the "Liquidation of the Consequences of the Accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station" (LPA) "Likvidatsiya posledstvii avarii", stubbornly concentrated all its attention on the tiny 10-km Special Zone. It was into this small area that all the material resources were thrown, along with thousands of untrained and unprotected soldiers and reservists. The politicians had decided that the remaining three blocks of the station had to be brought back on-line, whatever the cost.
          Hence, the birth of the myths of Chernobyl. A wave of disinformation swamped the Soviet press and then washed over the Western press.
          A new wave of myths rippled out from the official report given by the Soviet (nuclear industry) representatives at the IAEA (International Atomic Engergy Agency) conference in August 1986. The report was full of vague formulations, unchecked data, and false conclusions as to the causes and scale of the disaster. Apparently, the IAEA was quite satisfied with it. All indications were that these conclusions were perfectly acceptable to top officials of the IAEA.
          And the myths continue to be born. By the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, hundreds of books and articles had been written about Chernobyl. Of these, a number were written by people with no expert knowledge and are primarily emotional in character. Each of these seeks to throw light on one or another aspect of the disaster, usually concentrating on the first days or weeks.
          The second category consists of works at least written by experts, but by experts who had no opportunity to personally check the situation in Chernobyl -- or, perhaps, who had dropped by briefly, but only after 1987, and often only for the purpose of having their photograph taken with the Sarcophagus in the background. This picture would then be included in their book to emphasize the author's personal involvement in the events described. Most of their factual information about what happened, most of their "reliable" data are gleaned from the official Soviet press. Unfortunately, even in the period of `perestroika and glasnost' the Soviet press is far from being objective, and the information it offers is far from being totally reliable. The truth about the tragedy has been concealed by very severe censorship. The world has been shown "Potemkin villages" full of happily resettled inhabitants. From the days of the Tsars to those of Stalin, Russia always knew how to erect a facade -- and it is a well-known fact that the absence of reliable information, or of any information at all, creates ideal conditions for the birth of myths.

          Myth 1 (for further details see Chapters 1- 3): The design of the RBMK-1000 reactor is impeccable. It was the operating staff that caused the explosion.

          Myth 2 (see Chapter 1): The radionuclides emitted from the shattered reactor represent only 3% of the full 192-ton charge of uranium.

          Myth 3 (see Chapter 3): The partial technical changes to which the 15 RMBK-1000 reactors still in operation were subjected after the disaster have eliminated any danger of a second accident.

          Myth 4 (see Chapter 1): Only 31 people died as a result of the accident and the cleanup operations.

          Myth 5 (see Chapters 1 and 4): The concentration of attention on the 30-km Zone and on the decontamination and restarting of the three other reactors at Chernobyl was both permissible, given the radiation situation, and essential, given the need for electricity.

          Myth 6 (see Chapter 4): Before the accident there already existed a proper, scientifically developed contingency plan backed up with all the necessary technical resources, and all designed to cope with a nuclear disaster of such a scale.

          Myth 7 (see Chapter 5): With the completion of the Sarcophagus, rectification was essentially completed. The Sarcophagus is a tomb full of highly radioactive waste and is designed to last for 30 years. It is perfectly safe and presents no threat to people or environment.

          Myth 8 (see Chapter 6): Work in ultra-high radiation fields was carried out with the help of robots. The men who entered such fields were equipped with the appropriate protective gear.

          Myth 9 (see Chapter 7): When "rectifiers", after their service in the Zone, began to fall ill and die, the link between their illness and the time they had spent in radiation fields was recognized. They were given the necessary medicines and treatment while welfare assistance was also available to their families.

          Myth 10 (see Chapter 8): People living outside the 30-km Zone, but in areas affected by the emission of radionuclides, were warned in good time of the danger which threatened them and were given iodine treatment. The civil defense system worked effectively.

          Myth 11 (see Chapter 9): The "35-rem safe lifetime dose" guideline for people living in contaminated areas (as proposed by Academician Il'yin and apparently supported by the leading officials of the IAEA) is scientifically sound and will not result in damage to health.

          Myth 12 (see Chapters 1, 8, and 9): There is no reason to think that tens of thousands of children in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Russian republic received radiation doses to their thyroid glands hundreds of times greater than the internationally permitted maximum dose.

          Myth 13 (see Chapter 11): There is no reason to think that in the affected areas there is a continuing rise in the number of ailments caused by radiation, received either externally or internally through inhalation or contaminated food.

          Myth 14 (see Chapters 1 and 11): The doses which people have received while living in contaminated areas will not have a genetic effect.

          Myth 15 (see Chapter 12): The disaster will have no long-term impact on the environment, will not damage flora and fauna.

          Myth 16 (see Chapter 13): The protective measures taken in the summer of 1986 in the 30-km Zone have prevented any leakage of radionuclides into the surface and ground waters.

          Myth 17 (see Chapters 13 and 15): The radioactive pollution of the floodlands of the river Pripyat and of the silt of the Kiev Reservoir does not create any threat to the Dniepr basin or, ultimately, to the Black Sea.

          Myth 18 (see Chapter 14): The existing national and international norms created to protect the civilian population from radiation are scientifically sound and will prevent any damage to the health of future generations.

          Myth 19 (see Chapter 15): In the event of another nuclear accident anywhere in the world, scientific expertise and technical resources exist which are adequate for the task of decontaminating huge areas.

          Myth 20 (see Chapters 14 and 15): The storage facilities for fuel waste and liquid waste at Chernobyl (and also at other Soviet nuclear power stations), the total content of which, in terms of radioactivity, amounts to more than 20 billion Curies, pose no threat to the world.

          Myth 21 (see Chapters 1 and 15): The 800 - 1000 "tombs" which were dug in the (30-km) Zone to dump more than 500 million cubic meters of high-level and low-level radioactive debris present no danger to the world's aquifers.

          From the preceding (incomplete) catalogue of myths it is seen that this book attempts to bring into the open true facts about the way the Chernobyl disaster has been handled -- from April 1986 up to August 1991.
          I deliberately chose to present the interviews in their original tone which is sometimes emotional. Along with personal messages conveying horror, pain, grief, disappointment, frustration, and anger, the reader will find reports and data presented in the language of science. These different messages provide an adequate overall picture of Chernobyl. They reflect the many facets of the tragedy.
          Traditionally, science adopts the well-justified point of view that data can only be considered to be reliable if they can be and have been verified by several independent groups. The stress is on both "several" and "independent". This is not yet the case with much of the information presented here. The international scientific community has not yet had the opportunity to review all the measurements made by Soviet scientists. Consequently, only in a few cases was it possible to check the Soviet results against their own measurements. This book makes an important step towards establishing the truth as it contains a wealth of material that has not been presented previously and which is discussed without prejudice. It provides a basis for establishing an unbiased recognition of the facts.
          The data presented concern all aspects of the accident, from contamination of soil and aquifers, technological and economical aspects to biological, medical, and psychological findings. Some chapters and sections contain material of a more technical nature and will appeal most to the specialist in the given area. The Appendix contains explanations of technical terms, some details and data providing the basis for some of the statements made in the main text, and thus also a guide for independent scientific studies.
          The scientific data presented here are invaluable in assessing the real situation -- in particular, in view of the policy of certain branches of the bureaucracy to hinder the publication of related data, in contradiction to President Gorbachev's policy of "glasnost". This policy is especially deplorable considering that the well-being of millions of people are concerned; it has already spauned poor communication between the population in the affected territories and the authorities. This dreadful situation has been clearly recognized by high-ranking officials of the Soviet Union who have already initiated countermeasures. This book provides additional support for such actions.
          After five years of participation in the so-called rectification work I understand things ever more clearly. I know that it is not justifiable to speak about the "Rectification of the Consequences of the Accident". If one takes into account the scale and the degree to which an enormous number of peaceful people and a huge territory (in effect, our whole planet) have been affected, then one sees that the legacy of this catastrophe will continue to affect all of us for the rest of our lives.
          Our primary goal should be to provide relief to the people who suffer from the catastrophe's direct consequences, and who are still living in the polluted territories. So far, only timid first steps in that direction have been taken; there are still very difficult times ahead of us. The noble, humanitarian participation of the international community is required for the good of all people.

Chernobyl -- Paris -- Heidelberg -- London, Vladimir M. Chernousenko
August 1991

 









 


Acknowledgements

 





This book could not have been written without the help of hundreds of people whom I have had the good fortune to meet during the period I have spent as an active participant in the rectification operation. Justice demands that their co-authorship be recognized. It is impossible to mention all of them, but I would like to mention explicitly at least some of those who supported me in this undertaking or suffered from my dedication to it. Among the latter are, in first place, my wife and my daughters; in addition to my already dreaded passion for physics, overnight they found me deeply involved in the problems of Chernobyl, which reduced family life almost to zero.
          I want to express special gratitude to all the people with whom I worked in the Special Zone in that hot summer of 1986 and, in particular, to my friends Ye. Akimov, I. Akimov, V. Golubev, V. Golushchak, A. Gureyev, V. Dedov, Yu. Andreyev, G. Dmitrov, D. Vasilchenko, A. Nistryan, V. Omelchenko, Yu. Samoilenko, G. Nadyarnykh, V. Starodumov, A. Shimin, V. Chuchrin, V. Pshenichnykh, the colonels A. Nosach, A. Sontnikov, A. Saushkin, A. Grebenyuk, to generals K. Polukhin, N. Tarakanov, to the head of the special dosimetry unit A. Yurchenko, to V. Kulekin and A. Kuznetsov.
          I also want to thank all the people who were on duty at Chernobyl on that tragic night of April 26, 1986. Many of them paid with their lives for their successful fight to prevent the explosion of the other three reactors of the Chernobyl nuclear power station. With some of them, I spent long evenings, when we were patients in Clinic No.6 in Moscow, reconstructing a second-by-second account of that terrible night. I would like to mention in particular 0. Genrikh, V. Smagin, A. Nekhayev, A. Uskov, A. Tormozin, and A. Yurchenko.
          While I was working on the book, I received an enormous amount of help from members of the "Chernobyl Union", in particular, from G. Lepin, N. Karpan, M. Melnikov, V. Tarasenko, V. Lomakin, V. Khalimchuk, and K. Sabadyr. Material that they prepared formed the basis by which I wrote Chapters 3, 9, 14, and 15. Material from the report written by A. Yadrikhinskii on the causes of the disaster was used partly in Chapter 1. Material from A. Nikitin's report has been used in Appendix C.
          A word of acknowledgement is due to those people who have lived in the contaminated territories since 1986 and who have helped me to understand the situation there. I would like to mention T. Byelookaya, T. Grudnitskaya, V. Yavlenko, A. Volkov, I. Makarenko, A. Mozhar, M. Sizonenko, S. Volynets, A. Nevmerzhitskii, You. Afonin, N. Nikitentko, A. Budko, and G. Mishchi.
          For stimulating discussions of a number of technical questions relating to the rectification operation, I am indebted to Academicians A. Akhiezer, V. Baryakhtar, A. Davydov, R. Sagdeev, A. Sitenko, V. Trefilov, V. Kukhar, D. Grodzinskii, A. Dykhnya, V. Legasov, E. Sobotovich, to Doctors V. Novikov, Yu. Tsoglin, V. Shakhovtsov, G. Lisichenko, I. Sadolko, Yu. Okhovik, A. Selvestrov, M. Zheleznyak, L. Bolshov, Yu. Zaitsev, and V. Lisovenko, also to my fellow-scientists working at the "College de France" and at the research centers Karlsruhe, Julich, Munich (where I am particularly grateful to Professor A. Kellerer) in Germany, and also at the University of Ravensburg, to the scientists of the Pugwash Movement, especially to Professors J. Rotblat and F. Calogero.
          For unfailing support and for creating the conditions in which work on the book could be completed, I would like to express my gratitude to Springer-Verlag. For her support during my stay in Paris, I am very much indebted to Ms. M. Tovar. For their help during my stay in Heidelberg and for discussions at preliminary stages, and then for their active participation toward preparing the book for publication, I would like to expressly thank N. Aristov, E. Hefter, and S. von Kalckreuth from the Physics Editorial, who were later joined by Mr. J. Willis.
          The last, but not the least of these acknowledgements goes to John Hine, whose excellent English and strong devotion enabled him to cope not just with a handwritten Russian original manuscript, but also to cope with a very tight deadline and to faithfully translate, nevertheless, my concerns and thoughts. May they be of benefit to the reader.
 













 


Foreword

 


From the Publisher:

Vladimir Mikhailovich Chernousenko was born May 12, 1941, in New York, a small village in Donetsk province. He studied physics at Kharkov State University, specializing in theoretical atomic physics, and graduated in 1965. He started his scientific career at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Institute of Physics in Kiev. Since 1971, he has worked at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev, where he earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1973. Since then, up to 1991, he has been the head of the Laboratory for Nonlinear Physics and Ecology. His scientific acumen is exceptionally diverse, as can be seen from his numerous publications (120 scientific papers and four monographs).
          After the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in April 1986, he was invited by the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences to act as scientific director of their task force in Chernobyl. There he was concerned with conceiving the appropriate rectification measures, such as the building of a containment around the shattered Block 4, the "Sarcophagus", devising special methods for work in unprecedentedly high radiation fields (reaching several thousand Roentgens), for decontamination and radiation protection measures, etc..
          From May 1986 to January 1987, he worked in the Special Zone (10-km radius around the reactor) as Scientific Director of the Academy's Task Force for the Rectification of the Consequences of the Accident. He was a member of the Government Commission and took part in all its meetings. He is one of three authors of the secret report on the accident and the rectification measures prepared for the Soviet Government. Up to the beginning of 1991, he was Deputy Chairman of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Commission responsible for the Rectification of the Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident, and Scientific Director of the 30-km Zone.
          Those who worked in the Special Zone, particularly around the exploded reactor were exposed to exceptionally high radiation doses. Therefore, the physicists, technicians, specialists for reactor technology, members of the army, and others working on the Task Force were rotated in 15-day shifts at the longest, or when they had received a dose of 25 rem. Only three persons stayed the entire time until the Sarcophagus was completed in November: Yu. M. Samoilenko, General Director of the Task Force, V. V. Golubev, Engineering Director, and the author of this book, V. M. Chemousenko, Scientific Director. It was only by withholding information from the medical authorities about the high radiation doses they had received that they could accomplish their grim task in the Special Zone.
          For Vladimir Chemousenko the rectification work is anything but completed. This is why the author, in addition to his above-mentioned functions, has devoted himself to paving the way to establish an international scientific research center in Chernobyl, whose task it would be to investigate the effects of the disaster on man and nature. The first legal steps towards this goal were taken in 1991.
          The author's chief motivation for writing this book is that he considers it vitally important that the world should be told the unvarnished truth about the scale and consequences of the disaster, the legacy of which will remain with us for many generations. He presents realistic estimates and new unpublished hard data from various reliable sources about the radiation pollution caused by the accident. The figures prove to be much higher than anyone dared assume up to now. We are confronted with horrendous numbers regarding the radiation pollution of the soil and aquifers in the Soviet Union. On the basis of these data, it is estimated that a territory of a least 100,000 km^2 is so polluted as to be uninhabitable. There are even estimates of an amount three times as high.
          The author's greatest concern is the well-being of the people still living in this huge territory. Many of those who are still living in the polluted areas want to leave, but the problems posed by local administration and bureaucracy do not allow them to do so. For lack of precedence, the effects on their health in the long-term can only be guessed at, at the present time. But those effects are already beginning to become evident. The health statistics included in this book are a matter of serious concern and urgently call for further investigations.
          Chernousenko intends to make people aware of the acute threat posed by the continuing operation of the RBMK-type reactor used in Chernobyl. There are 15 reactors of this kind still in operation in the Soviet Union -- every single one of them a potential bomb. It was not so much personnel error as it was serious faults in the reactor design that was to blame for the explosion of Block 4. This is the alarming conclusion at which the author arrives after careful consideration of all factors involved.
          Thus, this book is an urgent appeal to people everywhere to assist in the efforts to overcome the consequences of the catastrophe -- consequences which have been gravely underestimated so far -- and to do the utmost to prevent a repetition of such a disaster. The problems of Chernobyl are as pressing as they were 5 years ago when the accident happened, and they demand the attention and involvement of everyone of us.
          In spite of his personal experience and his many encounters with victims of the disaster, Vladimir Chemousenko does not conclude his book by condemning everything related to nuclear energy. He makes constructive proposals with regard to the Government Rectification Program and leaves it to the reader to form his or her own opinion towards this controversial form of energy.
          In the Soviet Union, lower-level officials and those who were involved in the design and operation of the faulty reactor have managed to maintain an information-ban on the events in Chernobyl (possibly even to conceal the real facts from their own government). Thus, this English edition appears before the Russian edition, which will hopefully follow suit.
          In 1986, when the Chernobyl accident occurred, the attention of the press was focused on the events within the 30-km Zone around the exploded reactor. Gradually, it became increasingly clear to the people involved that the scale of the problem in terms of territory affected and of the depth of human tragedy was far larger than originally anticipated. However, now we observe a second, psychological disaster of a similar scale:[1]
          For several years after the accident a true disclosure was withheld from the residents of the affected region (and from the world). Unavoidable consequences are that even correct information on radioactive contamination, on radiation doses, and on the resultant health risks is now met with disbelief, and that conflicting information is abundant. Even in regions with less radioactive contamination the people are uncertain and frightened, and even in these regions they accept grave constraints -- especially with regard to food -- that make normal living conditions impossible, and in many cases they want to leave their villages, even when this does not seem to be necessary from the radiological point of view. This includes many settlements and cities that could well be saved.
          The misguided information policy of the past has made it almost impossible for the Soviet administration to now arrive at acceptable terms with the residents of the afflicted areas of the Soviet Union. On the governmental level, in meetings in 1989 between M. S. Gorbachev and E. R. Shevardnadze of the U.S.S.R., and Germany's H. Kohl and H.-D. Genscher, the suggestion was made that the Germans might help re- establish normal living conditions for the people in the afflicted areas. The Soviet authorities themselves felt that their information policy at various levels had caused distrust, despair, and bitterness in the affected regions to such a degree that all communication had broken down, and that an international effort was now required to re-establish some meaningful communication with the people.
          On the occasion of his visit to Bonn in 1990, Mr. Gorbachev recalled these discussions. As a result, the German government promised to begin a service in the afflicted regions of the Soviet Union that would enable all concerned citizens to have their incorporated radioactivity measured once or twice a year and to thus be given reliable information on radiation doses received from consuming contaminated food. It was realized that occasional measurement campaigns for the sampling of foodstuffs, which had frequently been performed, both by Soviet authorities and by foreign groups, could not solve the existing problems. Radiation exposure due to food intake varies so much with dietary habits and with local variations in contamination that every person needs an individual measurement in order to judge whether he can live a normal life, whether he has to change his dietary habits, or whether he needs special help, which may include relocation.
          As a result, mobile measuring units are being assembled in Germany to be brought to the afflicted areas of Byelorussia, the Ukraine, and the Russian Republic. They will be used to measure (on a large scale and repeatedly) the body activity of cesium for as many residents as possible and, thereby, to identify those -- and this may well be a relatively minor fraction of the population -- who need special advice and help. More importantly, however, the German staff will discuss the situation with the affected individuals. In this way it is intended to give them objective information on their environment, on the status of their health, and advice for the future. It is hoped that this will help to restore, to some extent, their faith in the future and to restore at least some some confidence in their authorities and government.
          Also contradictory is the information available internationally. There are various Soviet sources (the involved ministries, institutes, and institutions at federal and republic levels) providing different and conflicting contamination data, health statics, and other measurements. The recently released studies of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna[2] seems, at first glance, to indicate that the situation is by far less dramatic than frequently indicated; they are also in flat contradiction to the opinion voiced by V. M. Chernousenko and the sources cited by him. One part of the role of a scientific publisher is to make reliable data available to the scientific community; another important task is to keep alive the discussion on disputed topics and data in order to help to establish the truth, (independent of the pressure from or general acceptance by one or the other of the parties involved). In the case at hand, this is even more critical since the results will have serious implications on the fate of millions of people. We sincerely hope that this book will be a beneficial step towards open discussion and a clarification of the real post-Chernobyl situation.

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  1. For his help with the following remarks we are grateful to Prof. A. M. Kellerer.
  2. Three volumes on "The International Chernobyl Project"... (IAEA, Vienna 1991)





Contents                                                              






1.  Black Rain   .................................................   1
    1.1  Hiroshima and Nagasaki  .................................   2
    1.2  Chernobyl  ..............................................   3
    1.3  On the Design of the RBMK Blocks  .......................   8
    1.4  The Ukraine  ............................................  11
    1.5  Politics Versus Rectification  ..........................  14
    1.6  Byelorussia *  ..........................................  18
    1.7  Narodichi  ..............................................  30
    1.8  Criminal Actions  .......................................  33
    1.9  "Children of Chernobyl"  ................................  39
    1.10 The Rectification Program's Summary of the Situation  ...  43
    1.11 The Chernobyl Union  ....................................  46

2.  The Explosion  ...............................................  53
    2.1 An Operator Recalls: Explosion -- Shock  .................  55
    2.2 The Next Shift on Duty  ..................................  58
    2.3 Afterwards  ..............................................  68

3.  Who is Really to Blame? -- Designer or Staff? *  .............  71
    3.1 The RBMK: Design Regulations and Safety System  ..........  73
    3.2 Economics -- Technology -- the Human Factor  .............  83
    3.3 The Six Alleged Infringements of the Reactor Staff  ......  88
    3.4 Conclusions  .............................................  97

4.  The Zone  .................................................... 101
    4.1 Organizational Structure and Radiation Safety  ........... 103
    4.2 Decontamination and Rectification  ....................... 109
    4.3 Firsthand Accounts   ..................................... 115

5.  The Sarcophagus  ............................................. 129

6.  In the Jaws of Hell  ......................................... 143
    6.1   The Roof of Block 3  ................................... 144
    6.2   Clean the Chimney Platforrns!  ......................... 147
    6.3   A General Recalls Details of the Battle  ............... 149

7.  The Rectifiers:  Then and Now  ............................... 157
    7.1   A Rectifier Speaks Out  ................................ 158
    7.2   Not Related to Radiation  .............................. 162
    7.3   The Staff of the Power Station and Others  ............. 164

8.  Radiophobia  ................................................. 171
    8.1   The Head of the Regional Civil Defense  ................ 172
    8.2   No Panicking!  ......................................... 176
    8.3   The Radiation Situation in Byelorussia *  .............. 177
    8.4   People' s Dosimetry  ................................... 181

9.  Hostages  .................................................... 189
    9.1   Individual Life Doses and Safety Risks  ................ 191
    9.2   What Can the Dose 35 rem per 70 Years Imply?  .......... 194
    9.3   Outlook  ............................................... 195

10. Beyond the Limit  ............................................ 199
    10.1  Worries and Emotions  .................................. 201
    10.2  Scientific Data *  ..................................... 205
    10.3  A Systematic Survey  ................................... 214

11. Doctor, Will I Live?  ........................................ 217
    11.1  Physicians Present Their Observations  ................. 218
    11.2  Systematic Blood Tests on Children in Polesskoye ....... 227

12. Mutants -- Foreshadowing a Genetic Disaster?  ................ 231
    12.1  Effects on Plants  ..................................... 232
    12.2  Malformation in Farm Animals  .......................... 233
    12.3  Experimental and Observational Studies  ................ 236

13. Poisoned Waters  ............................................. 239
    13.1  The Problems  .......................................... 242
    13.2  Suggested Solutions  ................................... 246

14. Risk -- or How Safe is our Safety? *  ........................ 249
    14.1  A History of Safety Standards  ......................... 250
    14.2  Current Soviet Radiation Safety Standards  ............. 254

15. The Legacy of Chernobyl  ..................................... 261
    15.1  Comments on the Chernobyl Rectification Program *  ..... 263
    15.2  Suggestions for Modifications and Altematives *  ....... 265
    15.3  Outlook  ............................................... 270

16. Reflections and Photographs  ................................. 273


    Appendixes  .................................................. 309
    A.   Glossary and Acronyms  .................................. 309
    B.   Reactor Technology  ..................................... 316
    C.   Nuclear Power Plants and Environmental Pollution  ....... 322
    D.   Data of Relevance to Chapters 10 and 11  ................ 339

    References  .................................................. 355

    List of Names  ............................................... 359

    List of Maps, Sketches, and Diagrams  ........................ 361

    List of Tables   ............................................. 363

    Subject Index    ............................................. 365



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* An asterisk denotes chapters and sections that are more technical.  


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