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Analysis of the Chernobyl Meltdown


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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