I’ve decided to write this post after reading Leave Me Here recent entry. We were visiting Chernobyl and the Pripyat ghost town in late July 2009 and it was a truly moving time travel into the Soviet deceptive world. I believe all of you know more or less the story of what happened on the 26 April 1986 and I hope you realise as well how many lives has been lost in that accident and in following years due to radiation. Anyway, I don’t really want to write again about that tragedy, I just want to write about how easily we forget about such stories.
Nowadays media are bombarding us with hundreds of news. Let’s make it more correct – BAD NEWS. Well, I understand it in a way, the catastrophes and tragedies sell the best. No one is really interested that Anna X gave birth to a baby boy and became the most happy person in the world (as thousands of other women the same day) or that Frank Y has won the battle with his colon cancer. No, we want to hear about the bad things happening. Or at least our nature makes them sound much more interesting. And so yesterday was Haiti, today is Chile, tomorrow will be some other great tragedy. Yeah, you may say, what’s the big deal, you don’t like how the news are presented so just don’t listen to them and stop complaining. Well, this is not the point. What I’m trying to say is that will you remember about those disasters in let’s say 1,5 years? I bet you won’t, unless you were personally affected by them. And so this is the point of my moaning. By constant listening about calamities not only we become less sensitive to people’s tragedies but most importantly we tend to forget about them as soon as they disappear from the newspapers’ headlines. In a sence that is how it is supposed to be. The buildings will be rebuilt, the economies will stand again on their feet and the dead will be worshiped in the hearts of their relatives and friends. There are too many things happening now to stay all the time embraced by the past. Nevertheless, some catastrophes shall not be forgotten.
Chernobyl is one of those disasters that we should always remember about. And it it not only because it’s a great lesson for the future to be more aware of the nuclear energy risks . The important thing is that Chernobyl disaster is not over at all! Yup, there is nothing new in the statement that the radioactivity has a very long half life and basically nearly all of the radioactive dust that has fallen on Europe in the mid 80’s is still here, still dangerous just usually covered by new layers of soil, juicy green grass, concrete where houses for happy young families were built. But it’s there and worst of all it’s still radioactive and still will be for hundreds to thousands of years. And I have some more bad news for you – there is far greater danger ahead of us than the residues of radioactive cloud, and unfortunately nearly no one talks about it.
To understand what we really should be aware as well as scared of you need to make a small exercise and scroll up to have a look at the first picture again. What you can see on the bottom right is the 4th reactor, the one that exploded. More accurately you’re looking at it’s sarcophagus, built to seal up all the mess. Now have a closer look at the picture on the left – that’s a close up of that concrete-metal can. The sarcophagus was built in a hurry, most of the job was done by remotely controlled machines and so the construction was not done with a proper precision. Now, after 20 years it is full of cracks and it’s literally eaten by corrosion. Imagine what happens when it’s raining or snowing – the water comes in creating a radioactive soup. And what comes in must come out…. And no I’m not joking, it really is leaking! So how much of radioactive waste is left inside the sarcophagus? Well… imagine that what actually escaped as a radioactive cloud is only roughly 3% of what is still inside! So now you know… The power plant is situated just next to Dniepro river, Dniepro falls into the Black Sea, the Black Sea is connected to Mediterranean one and that one goes to Atlantic Ocean. Yes…. this is pretty terrifying vision, well actually it’s not just a vision, it is happening now, and no one really talks about it!
It wouldn’t be fair to say that completely nothing has been done about this situation. Right after the completion of the sarcophagus it was decided that a second one should be built as soon as possible. It was even then obvious that the construction is pretty fragile and absolutely inappropriate to seal the radiation inside for a long period of time. Since all the Europe was affected by the radiation, all the countries were interested to help to tame the ecological disaster. And so if I remember correctly over 20 billion of euros was collected at that time and donated to plan and build the second sarcophagus. The plans were that it will be finalised in 2009. But those were only plans. What has happened is that the money (as often happened in Soviet Union) somehow disappeared. The second sarcophagus has never been built, moreover there is not even a ready plan how and from what kind of materials it should be constructed.
The truth is that nearly everyone has forgotten about it. Chernobyl is passe, it’s not interesting anymore. And so the public opinion is not informed about the dangers, we are not reminded that there is still the heck lots of radioactive materials inside the sarcophagus, we are not told it’s escaping from there and contaminating the surroundings. Hence, no public pressure to do something with it and obviously politicians are not interested to pump billions of euros to seal it up again. But believe me, those billions that’s still a cheap price in comparison to how much we will pay once it all spills out.
What I realised after reading Leave Me Here post, is that after half a year I have also kind of forgotten about it. I came back from holidays, rushed into everyday matters, put the pictures in the folder and….. that’s it. Total indifference from my side. So I decided to write about it at least now. Even if just several people will read this post, at least I know I’ve tried to tell an important story. And hopefully, you will tell it to several more people.
For those who would like to learn a bit more about the Chernobyl tragedy I really recommend to watch “The battle of Chernobyl”. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve watched about that disaster and you can see it for free online.