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Power Hardware

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:27AM (#31772972)

    ...really? Does a disaster have to be an accident to be classed as a disaster?

    • by sgt101 (120604)

      Booooooooom!

      • by Archon-X (264195) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:12AM (#31773442)

        Just as Chernobyl nature has taken back the surrounds of Pripryat, the Chernobyl stories take on mythical proportion.

        Unfortunately, most people who go to Chernobyl (TFA author included) - seem to adopt this faux-investigative journalist approach, as if the entire experience is touch and go.
        This is entirely not the case - and while there are many interesting elements to Chernobyl, its surrounds, and its history, the above really just isn't one of them.

        For those of you who are interested - I've been. It's interesting enough. You pay 40 - 80USD, hop in a bus, drive 2 hours, and you're there. There's a quick paper check on the edge of the exclusion zone. You drive to a small village that has more kittens than people, and you're told a little about the history. You drive a little further into a larger town, and buy some Kvass and sausages, and keep going.

        From there, you're back in the bus - you see a memorial on the eastern side of Reactor 4, drive to the western side, at another memorial. This is as close as you can get to the reactor (and it's where the author shot his photos from)

        From here, it's a crapshoot depending who you went with. Normally, you'll get a speed-tour of Pripryat. They used to do the helicopter / heavy equipment graveyard, but that's no longer done.

        Pripryat is quite interesting, but the tours are always superficial. You follow a set path, and everyone sees the same thing: The ferris wheel, the school, the swimming pool. The buildings are decayed - not due to radiation, but simple weather exposure, yet peeling-paint photos somehow always manifest into drama-heavy recants.

        On my trip, I was lucky enough to slip away from the group, and get some more interesting perspectives:
        http://ninjito.com/2009-09-12-PANO/qx-pano-pripyat-1.jpg [ninjito.com]
        The hotel Polissia. It was quiet a pleasant day.

        http://ninjito.com/2009-09-12-PANO/qx-pano-pripyat-2.jpg [ninjito.com]
        Roof of said building, you can see reactor 4 in the distance to the right.

        http://ninjito.com/2008-08-16/qx-pripyat-1.jpg [ninjito.com]
        Rarely seen fresque honouring the cosmonauts.

        Interesting things to take away from the trip are:
        - There's a lot less 'fuss' than most people imagine
        - There are active buildings, people in the region
        - The unchecked nature growth has resulted in truly beautiful surrounds - the forests and plant life are stunning.
        - Radiation is pervasive and scary. While it's obvious that you can't see, touch, or smell it, it's truly startling to stand somewhere that has slightly-higher than background radiation, take two steps to the right, and suddenly be exposed to several-hundred times background radiation.

        Summary: Go and see it for yourself, but don't buy into the mythology.

    • by spyder-implee (864295) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:49AM (#31773090)
      I don't consider the attacks which ended World War 2 a disaster.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Celt (125318)

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

        • by Trepidity (597)

          That's generally the sentiment of most people on the receiving side of wartime attacks. Many Germans are still pretty upset about the "Dresden disaster".

          • by Jurily (900488)

            Many Germans are still pretty upset about the "Dresden disaster".

            That wasn't just a disaster, it was a war crime [wikipedia.org].

            • by troc (3606)

              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 :)

              The link to Wikipedia merely explains some of the discussions around whether is may or may not be a war crime, a disaster or merely a nasty thing (tm) but it is technically NOT a war crime as it has not be

              • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@gm a i l.com> on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:31AM (#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 Firethorn (177587)

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

                  This has tended to be the way it worked out over the centuries...

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        I do. YMMV.

      • That the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were dropped in order to end the second world war, doesn't mean they didn't had disastrous results. In fact, that was the whole point of the operation, to force Japan into surrender by causing extreme devastation. I think it is a valid question to ask if the millions of innocent citizens spanning multiple generations who lost their lives or were severly harmed by these actions justify the ending of a war.

        And of course, there is the question of necessity. It's plausi

        • ... millions of innocent citizens ...

          "Repo Man" quote:

          Leila: What if he's innocent?

          Agent Rogersz: No one is innocent.

        • by VShael (62735)

          so surely the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was gratuitous at best.

          No, it served a purpose. Just not one that fits neatly into the Good vs Evil narrative, so often attributed to World War II.

          Both bombs were dropped on Japan, in order to show Russia exactly what sort of weapons the US now possessed. The military leaders of the day were already mentally moving past the Nazi/Japanese, and were then looking to Stalin.

          • by dingen (958134)
            And they didn't showed this already in Hiroshima?
            • by VShael (62735)

              No, because dropping one could have been hand-waved as "We didn't know how devastating it would be" or "It's so horrible, we don't like to use it" or "It's a weapon of last resort".

              Dropping one, then dropping another a few days later, gives the impression of "We can keep this up until you're all dead. Surrender or else."

              That's the sort of message they were going for.

    • by beelsebob (529313)

      Well consider that earthquakes that kill maybe 1-300 people and leveled a 30 mile square area are commonly classed as disasters, then consider that chernobyl killed untold thousands (it's lucky it wasn't millions in Kiev or various other nearby european cities), and rather than leveling the area, rendered it completely uninhabitable for a long time.

      I certainly count that as a disaster.

      • by jrumney (197329)
        The OP wasn't questioning the fact that Chernobyl was a disaster. They were questioning whether it is the largest, given that Hiroshima killed over 100,000 people and and levelled a good portion of the city.
      • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @07:48AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2010 @04:05AM (#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 @04:08AM (#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 SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @06:29AM (#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 QuantumG (50515) *

      Well, the iPad isn't nuclear powered, but I guess if it was...

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      If you refer to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both are lively cities as of today. This is not the case of Chernobyl.
    • ...really? Does a disaster have to be an accident to be classed as a disaster?

      Do as the automotive industry does. Call it a Nuclear incident.

    • It depends on which definition you use:

      *
      A disaster is a very bad accident such as an earthquake or a plane crash, especially one in which a lot of people are killed.
      o
      It was the second air disaster in the region in less than two months.
      *

  • by Aku Head (663933) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:29AM (#31772982) Journal
    No matter how bad for you radiation might be, living around humans is worse.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @04:33AM (#31773304) Journal
      Depends. If you consider just the number of living animal as a metric, I would say that chicken farms are one of the incredible environment that humans created for animals that are indeed more successful than many others.

      Yes I am ironic. I heard that in Chernobyl, while one can see wild horses, no bird can be heard as they are very sensitive to radiation. Walking into a silent birdless forest is said to be a very strange feeling.
      • TFA actually states that in pripyat birds were heard, although not spotted

        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)

        • by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @08:22AM (#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).

  • Chernobyl (Score:5, Informative)

    by ssentinull (1763168) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:30AM (#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
    • Dude, those pictures you took from the bumpercars at the amusement park and the stacked radiators and stuff tell me that you where a tad close to those kind of things, if I may put it that way. I remember pretty clearly others describing their dosimeter going wild when closing in on metal objects and walls facing the reactor.

      Did you have a dosimeter or szintomat on you when walking about and taking those pictures?

      I'd suggest you switch to an organic diet with lots of iodine and vitamin D for the next year o

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ssentinull (1763168)
        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!
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by VShael (62735)

          When I was in Pripryat (and yes, we had the dosimeters as well) the readings were perfectly fine if you stepped on concrete, tarmac, or in some of the buildings. But if you stepped onto grass, soil, vegetation or anything which was connected to the water table, the dosimeter shot WAY up WAY fast.

          Our guide made a point of showing this to us, when we were taking photos of the bumper cars in the amusement park.

          I'm considering going back again this year.

    • by will_die (586523)
      Reading the article made we interesting in doing this for my early summer trip, that or playing to much of the STALKER FPS games. Plane tickets being less then 150Eur.
      Did you use a tour agency to get from Kiev to Pripyat? If so what one, if you would recommend them.
      Thanks.
  • by thesupraman (179040) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:32AM (#31773006)

    The interesting detail I picked up from this was that Chernobyl continued operation (on other reactors) for 14 years after this disaster.
    The popular view of the accident would be that the area was unusable, and most probably lethal - it would seem not.
    Of course, the wildlife in the area also shows this, however it is interesting how reality gets buried in popular belief.

    • by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:41AM (#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.

    • by kestasjk (933987) * on Thursday April 08, 2010 @04:29AM (#31773278) Homepage
      Also other identical reactors, built at the same time from the same design, like the one at Ignalina [wikipedia.org] in Lithuania continued operating until the end of 2009 (not because the plant was at the end of its useful life, but because the EU didn't want Lithuania to be operating a potentially unsafe reactor any longer).

      Chernobyl type reactors, despite being absolutely obsolete and horribly dangerous by 1980s nuclear standards (even if they are far more stringent than other energy standards), have been operating right up until the end of last year. (With some updated safety features learned from Chernobyl of course)
      • by Pentium100 (1240090) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:29AM (#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 @05:31AM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)

      The popular view of the accident would be that the area was unusable, and most probably lethal - it would seem not. Of course, the wildlife in the area also shows this, however it is interesting how reality gets buried in popular belief.

      Depends on your definition of "lethal". It is not lethal as in "breath there and suffocate, die within 5 minutes". It is lethal as in "die of a cancer within the year if you eat food and drink water from here" or in "live there several years and lose 10 years of life expectancy". Not a barren land, but not exactly hospitable either.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        [citation needed]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mirix (1649853)

        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 HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @07:39AM (#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 Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @03:36AM (#31773020)
    ... playing one of the Stalker series of games is more fun. Even if the scenery isn't 100% accurate.
  • documentarys (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clemdoc (624639)
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0194278/ [imdb.com] is quite an interesting documentary about the power plant and its surroundings. and not one of these "ohmygodit'sallsoterriblewon'tsomebodythinkofthechldren"-ones either.
  • Getting slashdotted. Can someone throw this up on Flickr or something?

  • Don't worry folks, I'm here all evening.
  • Was there on a lovely day and managed to slip off from the group at Pripryat to see some unique perspectives.

    http://ninjito.com/2009-09-12-PANO/qx-pano-pripyat-1.jpg [ninjito.com]
    The hotel Polissia.

    http://ninjito.com/2009-09-12-PANO/qx-pano-pripyat-2.jpg [ninjito.com]
    Roof of said building, you can see reactor 4 in the distance to the right.

    http://ninjito.com/2008-08-16/qx-pripyat-1.jpg [ninjito.com]
    Rarely seen fresque honouring the cosmonauts.

    Getting to Chernobyl isn't the overwhelming task of mental fortitude and endurance most of these 'reporters

    • Getting to Chernobyl isn't the overwhelming task of mental fortitude and endurance most of these 'reporters' want you to think it is. You go to Kiev, you spend 40 - 80USD, and you get taken there. It's very official, it's very routine, and you get an interesting experience from it. And a delicious meal at the end of it..

      Never been to the Ukraine, but according to what I saw in Everything Is Illuminated [imdb.com], hiring a driver for a sight-seeing excursion to Trochenbrod is ineed an interesting experience. ;-) I'd

      • by Archon-X (264195)

        Hard to say. The Ukraine is a very interesting place.
        There is an omnipresent sensation of being crushed - and it's something that manifests in the culture and personalities of everyone.

        With that said, there is some amazing history there, and very generous locals.
        We saw some stuff that's not even on a map (hidden water supply tunnels of Stalin's era, heavy chemical laboratories, abandoned sovietic computer bases (from the day where 1 computer == 5 buildings)) - without any dramas. I guess it's truly who you

  • by Snaller (147050) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @05:43AM (#31773588) Journal

    There are no zombies on any of them!

  • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @08:32AM (#31775018)

    I visited Pripyat, the reactor, and the surrounding countryside a couple years ago. The radiation is a major presence, and as Archon-X pointed out, it's common to hear nothing from your Geiger counter in one location and then take a couple steps and suddenly be exposed to 100x background levels.

    I think that must have happened to me while I first approached the reactor, but I don't actually remember it. I only remember waking up on a truck bed and being dropped off at the edge of the Zone with instructions to hunt down a man named Strelok. Long story short, eventually I remembered that my name is Strelok and the guys asking me to hunt him down hadn't realized this when they left me with my instructions. I managed to get back through Pripyat to the reactor, where I uncovered a bizarre group trying to trick visitors with a religious hoax. Not falling for it and not liking the looks of the people involved, I shut down their organization and escaped. It was the best ending I could hope for.

    Highly recommended.

  • by Khashishi (775369) on Thursday April 08, 2010 @09:17AM (#31775642) Journal

    Funny how everybody has heard of Chernobyl, the place where a nuclear meltdown directly killed around 59 people. How many people have heard of Benxihu? A coal dust explosion killed 1549 in one day. People probably don't know much about any single coal mining accident because they happen all the time. Even now, coal accidents kill thousands a year. The most recent deadly nuclear accident was about 11 years ago in a Japanese plant, where two workers died.

    Now, I'm talking nuclear power, not weapons.

    Now factoring the relative danger of radiation versus pollution and global warming is pretty difficult. But radiation probably killed a few thousand, whereas coal pollution probably killed millions. Both radiation and carbon will be around for a long time.

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