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What Chernobyl Looks Like In 2010 413

Posted by samzenpus
from the quiet-neighborhood dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The editor of Phoronix.com has toured Chernobyl's Zone of Alienation (the 30km zone surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant) to see what the area looks like 24 years after the world's largest nuclear disaster. Many photographs from Chernobyl in 2010 have now been published, showing off the power plant and its RBMK reactors, the town of Pripyat, the town of Chernobyl, and the Red Forest. The 24th anniversary of this deadly nuclear disaster will be on April 26."
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What Chernobyl Looks Like In 2010

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  • Chernobyl (Score:5, Informative)

    by ssentinull (1763168) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @04:30AM (#31772996)
    First post! Seriously though, just went to Chernobyl about 3 weeks ago, and seeing it is surreal. I wasn't alive when it happened, but going through the amusement park they had just built was just remarkable. I took a lot of pictures, and my favorite one is from the school we went to, found a child size gas mask, something you wouldn't expect to find in a school, but nice regardless. If you want to see more pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sswezey/ [flickr.com] . I would definitely recommend going to see it, and Kiev is a cool city to see for a day as well
  • by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @04:41AM (#31773044) Homepage Journal

    What's even more interesting, as wildlife flourishes, random private individuals introduce new animals on their own.
    Someone brought and released a pair of Przewalski's Horses and now they form quite a big herd. There are some other species not native to the area and never observed there before. They were brought there by humans - unsanctioned, unregulated activity funded entirely by enthusiasts from their own money.

  • I like the nags and know a little about breeding. A single pair would not be enough to create a herd.

    Wikipedia says a few dozen were introduced. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Przewalski%27s_Horse#Preservation_efforts

    Interest fact, nevertheless. Cheers.
  • by Celt (125318) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:03AM (#31773148) Homepage Journal

    You may not consider it a disaster but many Japanese likely do....affects are still felt to the present day.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:05AM (#31773162)

    From the article

    "
    the Chernobyl nuclear accident led to more than one hundred times the nuclear fallout of what was experienced during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
    "

    Fucking retards

  • by the_raptor (652941) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:08AM (#31773170)

    Well, it caused a larger zone of serious radiation spread than the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did. Some of the tests in the pacific, Australia, and continental US contaminated very large areas but like the nuclear bombings it is mostly light isotopes that decayed very quickly. The nuclear bombings of Japan, or some other incident, might have been a more serious nuclear disaster (at least for the Japanese) but I would give Chernobyl the credit as largest.

  • by Crysm (1410083) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:30AM (#31773288)
    An example detonation would not have had the same effect as a show of willingness to bomb and easily destroy civilian populations. I'm not saying it was a good thing, but it could be called necessary.

    Either way, the loss of life is regrettable, tragic. You will note that there has been no detonation of nuclear weapons in war in the 65 years since.
  • Re:Kidd Of Speed (Score:5, Informative)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:31AM (#31773298) Homepage
    She's a fraud. The whole thing never happened [museumofhoaxes.com]. It was just wishful thinking on her part because she wanted to write poetry. The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong. "Apparently she didn't go around alone on a motorcycle. She went in a car with her husband and a friend. Elena defends herself, admitting that much of her story was 'more poetry' than reality." It just baffles me how someone can take some cool photos and then ruin the entire thing by lying about it. It's like going to the White House to meet the President, and then you make up a tale about how you went to the bathroom, opened the wrong door, and stumbled into the Situation Room. Your story is already way cool, why the F lie about it? The REALLY sad part is all the people who rushed forward to defend this fraud.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:42AM (#31773334)

    Coral cache [nyud.net].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:56AM (#31773390)

    Effects, you want to write effects.

  • by ssentinull (1763168) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:56AM (#31773392)
    We did have a dosimeter with us, at the closest point to the sarcophagus, the SV was reading a 3.57 (I have a picture of it). On average though, it was reading about 0.1. To put in in perspective, an X-ray tech during a year gets an annual dosage of 32, so I'm honestly not too worried about it, and the pictures are worth it!
  • by jayveekay (735967) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @06:25AM (#31773494)

    About a dozen Americans were killed by the Hiroshima atomic bombing. They were PoWs (airmen captured when they were shot down in raids on Japan).

    When Americans are taught about the bombing, is that ever mentioned, that they nuked their own soldiers? I'm not taking a position that it is right or wrong to drop bombs that kill your own soldiers in the pursuit of the greater goal, but it would seem appropriate to recognize the sacrifice that was made and honor the dead.

  • by Pentium100 (1240090) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @06:29AM (#31773516)

    Remaining RBMK reactors were modified to make them safer, but I suppose you can consider them unsafe just like a car that kills its passengers if the driver accelerates to 200km/h and aims at a concrete wall or a tree.

    And Ignalina power plant was shut down mainly because our politicians, fresh out of one Union, wanted to get into another so badly they signed whatever they were told to sign by said Union. Now most of the electricity comes from an old ~1.5GW oil and gas power plant which has ~25% efficiency (which I'm told is pretty low for these power plants).

  • by mirix (1649853) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @06:31AM (#31773528)

    RBMK is safe now, with a few modifications they added. There are still ~10 RBMK running inside Russia, and I don't think they have plans to shut them down early. (I think they'll gradually be taken off line between now and 2030, depending condition and how old).

    From what I remember:
    Added more control rods, faster application, removed graphite tips.
    Added more base neutron absorber (not sure how to call it, like control rod that is always in), so that reactor is unable to run at low power level (where it was unstable).
    To compensate for the above it needs to run more enriched uranium though, I think ~2.5%. I suppose this makes it less cost effective than old, but safety is worthwhile exchange...

    I think most new reactors will be VVER type (PWR, with containment, safe, and exported to many places). There is also new MKER under development, it's the same theory as RBMK, with hotswap fuel rods and such, and will be used to replace old RBMK. - I think it is to be full containment, though.

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Thursday April 08, 2010 @06:31AM (#31773530)

    The bombing of Dresden has never been legally classified as a war crime. There are plenty of people who believe it is, plenty of people who believe it isn't and even more people who have no opinion either way. Whether it would be classified as a war crime if it were "on trial" is a matter for discussion :)

    It wasn't classified as a war crime simply because the perpetrators of said attack were on the winning side.

    A prime example of that is some of the charges that Admiral Donitz faced regarding the sinking of neutral and unarmed shipping even though both the British and the Americans waged a similar campaign tactic against both Germany and Japan.

  • by mirix (1649853) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @06:47AM (#31773612)

    Some of the big health problem isotopes released had short half-lives, so staying there a year now is probably not much more of a dose than staying only a few days right after the incident, too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @06:54AM (#31773646)

    This fresque honours the USSR Post Service and says "The post service for all time and all peoples".

  • by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @07:05AM (#31773698) Homepage Journal

    When Americans are taught about the bombing, is that ever mentioned, that they nuked their own soldiers?

    It was mentioned in some of my military training. More as a foot note, really. You had to pay attention to the extended casualty figures.

    Far more POWs were also killed during the more conventional attacks. We were trying to bomb Japan's war industry, and they were trying to use our POWs to work it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @07:29AM (#31773838)

    To prove that the US had multiple atomic weapons. If the US detonated only one bomb, it could be written off as a prototype that just happened to work. Detonate two, and it's a lot harder to argue that there weren't a dozen more ready to drop on other cities.

    This was actually a bluff on Truman's part. After the bombings, he promised "a rain of ruin", "the likes of which have never been seen on this earth". He could not have actually followed through on this, because the US didn't have any more nuclear weapons built at the time. But the demonstration accomplished its goal, and saved the US from having to mount an invasion of mainland Japan (Operation Downfall). Even modest casualty estimates for the operation ran into the millions.

  • by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @07:29AM (#31773842) Homepage

    Well, it caused a larger zone of serious radiation spread than the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did. Some of the tests in the pacific, Australia, and continental US contaminated very large areas but like the nuclear bombings it is mostly light isotopes that decayed very quickly. The nuclear bombings of Japan, or some other incident, might have been a more serious nuclear disaster (at least for the Japanese) but I would give Chernobyl the credit as largest.

    Nagasaki+Hiroshima get a lot of press because they were intentional and we learned much of what we known of the harmful effects of radiation from it. That was not understood at the time, that's something we have in hindsight. For example, there was a lot of direct viewing of tests for many years.

    Another big disaster is the collective effect of all the cores the Brits and others have dumped in the ocean just upstream from Norway. The gulf stream takes the radioisotopes, like Technium, up to Norway for it to enter the food chain and concentrate in birds which then squirt it out over the land by the metric tonne during nesting season. That latter disaster is still ongoing and growing as the cores fall apart.

    It looks like the article is downplaying the extent of the Chernobyl disaster. Don't forget that it was radiation detectors at nuclear plants in Sweden, four or five countries away [google.com], that sounded the alarm. Levels there were high enough to trigger a response to a possible leak. The puzzle started when it was found that it was the workers coming into the plant on a shift change that were hot, but the ones leaving were not.

    Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Finland and Norway were some of the countries in the fallout zone. People traveling or otherwise active out of doors on those days were heavily exposed to the fallout. The isotopes and amount are known and enough time has passed that there should be indications of the effect on the population. All livestock and the fodder upon which they graze got it too, so that the meat from at least some of those regions was banned in other regions for years.

    Right now the core is still smoldering hot and needs constant maintenance to prevent picking up where it left off. The core is so hot that RPV's die in a matter of minutes and the pictures they send are grainy. It's rather disturbing to see frozen waterfalls of slag and rock that where molten and flowing at the peak.

    So yeah, Chernobyl is not just the largest nuclear disaster, it's still an active disaster.

  • by fpitech (1559147) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @07:56AM (#31774002)
    I can confirm this, visited there last summer. Truly a place worth visiting. There are several hundred people working on shifts there all the time, two weeks at a time. There's even a mobile phone network there nowadays. Ukraine government also plans to open large part of the exclusion zone during the next 5 to 10 years, so some of the stories are kind of exaggerated.
  • by gafisher (865473) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @08:19AM (#31774178)
    Much of the area around Chernobyl was evacuated immediately; see the photos here [englishrussia.com] of schools, businesses, equipment and homes abandoned on short notice and never reclaimed. A succession of workers continued at the power plant, both to reinforce the rapidly deteriorating "tomb" which had been hastily assembled around Reactor #4 and to keep other reactors operating as you've noted. While animals and even some people have returned to the area, it has not become "safe" nor will it be for many years to come. The Chernobyl reactors used an inherently unsafe design chosen primarily because it was cheap; the bills eventually do come due; it can be argued that Chernobyl contributed significantly to the collapse of the Soviet Union, due both to the enormous direct cost of the disaster and a desire by the government to divest itself of the very long term responsibility. Chernobyl is now Ukraine's problem; Russia simply walked away and moved on.
  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @08:39AM (#31774364)

    You probably wouldn't want to eat too much of the locally grown crops or drink too much of the local water but people do live there and seem to do ok despite eating local food.
    Slightly raised background radiation is not as bad as people think.
    The heavy metals in the soil are a bit nasty though.

    what surprises me is how little we hear about the other places that have been damaged by radioactive material.
    The soviet weapons program was a disgrace.
    Chernobyl pales in comparison to this:
    http://www.damninteresting.com/in-soviet-russia-lake-contaminates-you [damninteresting.com]

    "Rather than the typical "background" gamma radiation of about 0.21 Röntgens per year, the edge of the Techa River was emanating 5 Röntgens per hour."

    "Thirty-nine years of effluent had saturated the lake with nasty isotopes, including an estimated 120 megacuries of long-lived radiation. In contrast, the Chernobyl incident released roughly 100 megacuries of radiation into the environment, but only about 3 megacuries of Strontium-90 and Cesium-137. A delegation who visited Lake Karachay in 1990 measured the radiation at the point where the effluent entered the water, and the needles of their Geiger counters danced at about 600 Röntgens per hour-enough to provide a lethal dose in one hour. They did not linger long."

    the nuclear energy industry isn't too bad.
    Its the nuclear weapons industry that people should worry about.

    Of course if you listen to greanpeace types everything within a 100 miles of Chernobyl is a desolate wasteland peopled with ghosts and it will remain that way for 50,000 years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @08:41AM (#31774392)

    "Brits and others have dumped in the ocean just upstream from Norway. The gulf stream takes the radioisotopes, like Technium, up to Norway"

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

            Not to be confused with Technetium, which is Tc on the periodic table of elements.

    Technium is the brand name of a business incubation scheme in Wales. The scheme provides tenants with office space, business support, fast telecom links and venture finance.

    Yeah, i will believe what this guy says about this disaster when he learns the basics of chemistry, or even how to spell check.

    Chernobyl happened because a poorly designed and very poorly maintained reactor, was pushed too hard by fools not heeding their barely existent safety protocols.

    All in all 57 people died in this incident. this many people die each day due to illnesses related to coal mining and burning (respiratory illness, mining accidents etc) the ridiculous fear that has been generated against nuclear reactors and the beat up that the media and green groups have given this incident is costing lives each day.

    And before people respond by telling me that 50,000 have or will die from Chernobyl, do a bit of reading first. Again from Wikipedia:

    UNSCEAR has conducted 20 years of detailed scientific and epidemiological research on the effects of the Chernobyl accident. Apart from the 57 direct deaths in the accident itself, UNSCEAR originally predicted up to 4,000 additional cancer cases due to the accident.[159] However, the latest UNSCEAR reports suggest that these estimates were overstated. In addition, the IAEA states that there has been no increase in the rate of birth defects or abnormalities, or solid cancers (such as lung cancer) corroborating UNSCEAR's assessments.

    Nuclear may not be perfect, but it is a damn site better than any of the alternatives.

  • by Archon-X (264195) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @08:47AM (#31774452)

    It's also a complete hoax [museumofhoaxes.com]
    Pity - it was / is well written.

  • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @08:48AM (#31774464)

    Chernobyl caused 56 direct deaths. It may have contributed up to an estimated 4,000 cancer deaths. It didn't kill "untold thousands" and had no possible way of killing "millions" - you'd have to nuke a city to get that many, and even then use a huge device aimed at Manhattan or similar region.

  • by chrislott (1785872) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @09:17AM (#31774820)
    For a detailed if fictional view of Chernobyl and Pripyat, read the novel _Wolves Eat Dogs_ by Martin Cruz Smith. Smith sends his detective character Arkady Renko on a case to the Zone of Exclusion. I am not a radiation scientist so cannot judge the veracity of the novel but he goes into considerable detail about the accident, contamination levels, people who remained, etc. Fascinating read. Disclaimer: this is my favorite author.
  • by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @09:22AM (#31774890) Homepage Journal

    not to say birds are thriving, but they arent extinct in the exclusion zone (and keep in mind pripyat is very close to the reactor)

    Not only are they not extinct in the zone, they are relatively thriving. Enough that there's a bunch of studies on them, at least.

    I didn't find the study I was looking for, but I did find this one mentioned.
    Brightly colored birds most affected by Chernobyl radiation [physorg.com]

    The study I remember reading was a simpler radiation level and nesting success. Basically, on average birds nesting in the sarcophagus had almost the same success rate as birds not, despite there being double the birth defect rate. Remember, many of these species normally lay 4-6 eggs to get ONE adult bird at the end - the chicks pushing each other out of the nest when they're growing.

    Other studies show that migrant birds have more troubles, like the brightly colored ones. Big eggs are also a problem. Still, we're looking at nests in the worst of the contaminated areas.

    Deer and such that live further away do fine. Not that I'd recommend humans necessarily live that close, despite me not holding to the linear harm theory(the idea that if Radiation in amount X casues Y cancers, that X/2 will cause Y/2 cancers - I'm more like X/2 is more likely to cause Y/4 cancers).

  • by TrisexualPuppy (976893) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @09:53AM (#31775330)
    Meh, I went there last summer. It is indeed exaggerated. Here are a couple of things to note:

    --The town is not completely closed. Lots of people still work there to decommission the other reactors.
    --The plant continued to run until 2000.
    --They only take you around certain places because they have been tested to be relatively safe. There are still parts in buildings where highly radioactive dust has settled, so even with a good G-M meter, you might stumble upon way too much radiation. A G-M meter will tell when you have found it, but it's not going to tell you where it is.
    --The "kidofspeed" site about her Chornobyl/Pripyat tour is probably a hoax
  • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @10:34AM (#31775956)

    My understanding about the kidofspeed site is that she was not being honest when she said she rode her motorcycle there (she was in buses/tour cars with other people), but that the pictures are all actually taken there. Though apparently, I just found a site mentioning that some were staged or set up here [racingsouthwest.com] which seems to be a credible source.

    Just to clarify. And you can take the same tour she took yourself [ukrcam.com] for a few hundred bucks (and the time/cost of getting there).

  • by molnarcs (675885) <molnarcs AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 08, 2010 @11:31AM (#31776954) Homepage Journal
    It is NOT a complete hoax. To quote from your own linked article:

    Apparently she didn't go around alone on a motorcycle. She went in a car with her husband and a friend. Elena defends herself, admitting that much of her story was 'more poetry' than reality, but noting that most of it was still reality. I'm inclined to side with her. The pictures of Chernobyl, and what it's become, were real. How much does it really matter that she made them more interesting by wrapping them in a tale about a solitary motorcycle ride? (via JohnFord.net)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @04:27PM (#31781436)

    But it isn't many thousands.

    To get many thousands, which some studies do, what you have to do is say "Radiation is deadly, anyone who is exposed and dies, died of the radiation" and then "X years later, many thousands of people are dead" and conclude "Many thousands of people died from the radiation".

    To get a useful number you need to compare the population of people who were seriously exposed to a similar population who weren't exposed and compare death rates over time. And once you do that the numbers for Chernobyl itself get a LOT smaller. Because in your non-exposed population (and thus we may feel confident, the same applies to the exposed population) plenty of people got in car crashes, had heart attacks, took drug overdoses, and so on.

    Of course Chernobyl did kill people, particularly those workers who entered the reactor area before they realised what had happened, and some firefighters. But the saddest thing is that many people whose exposure was limited and whose risk factor was therefore fairly ordinary (say 95% of normal life expectancy for their age) were deceived by well-meaning but stupid outsiders into believing that they were doomed, they often became very depressed and that had all the usual consequences. So you meet a guy who is 55 and was at Chernobyl, and he looks really bad, and then you find out he's an alcoholic, of course he looks really bad, but that's the alcohol, not the radiation.

    The other way to get "many thousands" of dead is even more disingenuous. You pick a number out of the air (say, 0.01%) and then multiply that by all causes of death that we believe may be related to radiation exposure. Then, because these illnesses are fairly common, and the world is a big place, you say "thus, so-and-such many people around the world died because of fallout from Chernobyl". Which is completely unprovable and arbitrary.

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