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Wednesday, July 31: Day 100 – Chernobyl

We have hit triple digits today in days traveled. We are still so thankful to have this opportunity.

Today, we go to the Chernobyl Museum. There are 3.5 million Chernobyl victims. Even as we go through the museum, there are radiation stickers to denote radioactive material in the showcases. Also, stickers are placed on those liquidators that died as a direct result of radiation.

Because of the nuclear explosion on April 26, 1986 at 1:23am, 76 villages had to be abandoned and are no more.

Within ten days of the explosion, 116,000 people of which 91,000 were Ukrainian were evacuated. This exclusion zone had a radius of 18 miles. Eventually, additional cities were evacuated: 92 Ukranian cities and 393 Belorussian cities.

This area was called Chernobyl in 1193. An interesting Biblical reference is that Chernobyl means Wormwood in Russian. This is mentioned in Revelation and speaks of poisoning of the water.

All workers were called liquidators.350,000 were involved in the initial cleanup.

In total, 600,000 in over 5 years from 1986-1991 were liquidators.(45% died, 50% disabled)

One half of the liquidators were Ukrainian and other half from the 15 other Soviet nations.

RBMK 1000 is the reactor designed by a Russian. He bragged that it was so safe that one could be built in Red Square. In fact, sixteen of this type were built.

This was the first nuclear reactor in Russia (Today in Ukraine) and the plan was for Chernobyl to be the biggest in Europe. When all the Chernobyl reactors closed down, there was much sadness.

There were four types of protective suits worn. None were adequate but were the best available.

  • Emergency Protection Suit-worn by personnel inside the plant.
  • Overalls worn by the Firefighters
  • Lead aproned suits worn by soldiers cleaning the roof
  • Military chemical hazard suits

Pripyat was built in 1970 as a city of workers at Chernobyl and their families. It was the youngest city in Ukraine. The population was 50,000 (17,000 children) The average age was 26. One thousand babies were born each year.

Evacuation was not immediate. The population did not receive any emergency health precautions such as stay inside brick buildings, don’t go outside, and don’t eat vegetables or drink milk.

An announcement was made at 1pm on April 27 to leave immediately and take only documents. No pets. There were 1,200 buses and 3 trains with 1,500 seats each. They were told that the evacuation was temporary.

I think that it is a miracle that the evacuation was complete in three hours. (I imagine that a lot of scared schoolchildren were reunited with their families.)

We watched photos of the evacuation. We were to note that the white spots that occurred in the film were from radiation. The photographer eventually died of heart failure, the most common cause of death in Chernobyl survivors.

In a newspaper article dated April 29, there was only a 1″ paragraph (highlighted in red) on page 3 in Moscow saying that there had been an accident at Chernobyl and the cleanup was underway.

On the same day, the New York Times had a front page article.

The international community knew about it before the people most affected by the radiation knew. In fact, May 1 is a big holiday in Communist countries like our Labor Day. Everyone was outdoors for parades and picnics. May 6 is when they told their people about the dangers of radiation exposure. As a result, there was an 80-fold increase in cancer, mostly children.

Firefighters

The first responders were the firefighters. They arrived at 1:46am. Their ages were from 22-28 years old. They were able to put out the fire and keep it from spreading to the other reactors. They spent 5 hours on the building. They were evacuated to the Moscow Hospitals on the 27th. All died due to radiation exposure.

Police

Thirty thousand police provided security for over five years. One thousand five hundred police were on the roof doing cleanup of graphite fragments and only allowed to be there for 90 seconds each.

Military

Forty thousand military personnel monitored the radiation levels, participated in the cleanup and led the evacuation. They remained until 1992.

Coal Miners

Three hundred eighty eight coal miners dug a tunnel by hand under the reactor around the clock for 15 days. A concrete slab needed to be put under the reactor. They all died within 2 years.

Scientists

Six hundred scientists studied the effects of radiation that of 100 times an atomic bomb. The most immediate concerns were radiation containment and contamination of the water supply.

Six Research Disciplines

  • Ecology
  • Radioactive Medicine
  • Agricultural Radiology and deactivation
  • Controlling the Level and Forecasting the Movement of Radioactive Pollution
  • Technical Facilities
  • Technology

As a microbiologist, I know that mutations are performed in the lab by exposing bacteria to UV light. So I was not surprised when I read that scientists had identified over 300 new bacteria and viruses. (This also alarms me.) Also, new plant and animal diseases were noted.

The forests minimized the nuclear impact. Today this “red” forest is considered the most contaminated area in the world today.

Medical Care Givers and Ambulance Drivers

They are so many people involved and this exhibit gave respect to those brave workers. We saw a church service taking place prior to working in the plant and can only imagine what was going through their minds.
2.5 million continue to live on territories polluted by radiation,
Nuclear clean-up is scheduled for completion in 2065.

Many people are involved in the ongoing care of direct and indirect victims. Education and expression of grief is also important. This artist uses words as brush strokes. Take a close look to find her words.

A map of the world showed the shocking number of nuclear reactors in the Europe, Japan and North America. Earth is too small for man-made catastrophes.

Today a sarcophagus of cement and a special polymer surrounds the reactor. Here is a model of it.

There have been reports of leaks in 2017.

Do you suppose that in several thousand years that some archeologist will find it and want to see what is inside? Let’s pray that this Pandora’s Box is never opened!

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