2006/04/26

Chernobyl - 20 Years Ago Today

At 1:23 AM local Kiev time (3:23 PM PDT, April 25th) the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded blowing the top of the reactor building and spewing radiation over a 77,000 sq. mile swath of Europe and the former Soviet Union. Thousands died in the desperate attempt to contain the disaster and the cleanup that followed.

Take a moment to remember the brave men and women who fought to contain one of the worst environmental disasters in history, but while you do also consider the following: Chernobyl's nuclear reactors had no containment; They were of a type (graphite-core) that is no longer used and even at the time was considered a very high-risk design; The operators at Chernobyl where performing an operation that they should never have been allowed to try and practically blew up their own reactor.

We should strive to ensure that a Chernobyl-like disaster can never happen again, but we should also not let ourselves be cowed into disregarding nuclear energy out of fear and ignorance about what actually happened that day.

11 Comments:

Yeah, in all this talk about India and Iran and their enrichment schemes we hardly hear a word about the dangers of nuclear power, do we? It takes a 20 years anniversary to even bring it up. And I still haven't seen anybody writing about 'the China syndrome' possibility. It's all about possible nuclear arms.
Yup - there has to be better solutions to the energy issue that doesn't involve risk of such magnitude and that doesn't leave radioactive waste with a half life of 10,000 years.

I still can't quite figure out why every roof is not covered in photovoltaic or something better - particularly in such sunshine states as the southern part of the Americas and the west coast.

Maybe it's becuase Washington has been so busy subsidizing the oil industry that it's impossible to build such solutions. some day, the folks will wise up, but I'm not holding my breath.
The dangers of burning coal are obvious to ecology minded, and ignored by industry and the politicians they've bought.

Brand and a few other's have done the math and changed course on nukes: we HAVE to make them safe.

I can't forsee all the politcal footdragging that will impede the adoption of nukes but I would not want the present administration involved: they would be bought out by industry that lobbied to avoid the costs of safer and more regularly inspected plants.
EEK! Maybe I didn't make myself clear. I'm an advocate of nuclear power, as the linked post clearly states. Windspike...the 10,000 year half-life thing is a myth. You need to look at the bigger picture of how the materials actually decay and how they can be reprocessed.

Neil, the China Syndrome is another myth. TMI, the only accident on American soil, was completely contained, exactly as intelligently designed plants are supposed to do. At Chernobyl, the operators practically blew up their own plant.

We need nuclear power...in fact, we must have it for the continuous power generation that the grid requires and that renewables cannot provide. Wind, solar, hydro...are all great, but they will never provide more than 20 to 25% of our needs. Nuclear is the answer, and I was trying to sugges that we look soberly at it...today...on the anniversary of Chernobyl.
Sure, all that depleted uranium can be used as rounds to fire at Iran...for building a nuclear power plant!:)
With the experience the world has gained in the use of nuclear power I think we can build nuclear reactors that are safe. Nuclear power can also make hydrogen power more feasible. Excess capacity during off peak periods could be used to generate hydrogen.

You got me surfin for other ideas and came across this. http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/codes_algs/PVWATTS/pvwatts_index.html

Also, if we make a concerted effort we can reduce our foreign energy dependence. And over time, even if we do not get to total energy independence we can get to a point where we are not so overwhelmingly dependent on what happens in other countries that are a lot less stable than ours.

Leadership is the start.
I have a friend who grew uop about 50 miles from Chernobyl when he was a kid. He continues to wonder when the cancer diagnosis comes. So far, nothing. But his sister and mother both have died from cancer.
R-bE, I feel for your friend. Having something like that hanging over you must be quite a burden. Do you think that all of the hundreds of thousands of people who live withing 5 miles of a petroleum refinery or a coal-fired power station have the same worry? If not, why not?
My sister lives in the shadow of a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. I never understood why she bought a house so close to a power plant. But she's in complete denial about the possibilities. She's not worried about a meltdown, she's not worried about environmental problems, she's not worried about terrorists blowing the thing up.

She says I worry too much.
Actually a recent, (2005), study and report created by the U.N. found that only 59 people had died as a result of Chernobyl-released radiation.
Anon...thanks for the comment. I suspect that the numbers are higher, but it's not relevant. Compared to the number of deaths that could be attributed to petroleum refining, it's small potatos.

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