Afterword to "Ghost Town" and "Land of the Wolves"
Here are two Chernobyl tales with pictures. "Ghost Town" first appeared online in 2003-2004, "Land of the Wolves" in 2005.
My interest in Chernobyl began in 1992, when I first traveled through Belorussian villages north of the reactor. I was 18 years old and I was impressed. What struck me most was some of the dark beauty of the places; the beauty that others could not see.
Few years later I bought my first motorcycle and Chernobyl was my favorite destination. I was posting my Chernobyl photos on internet motorcycle forums since 1998. I did it for the fun of teasing and entertaining friends from biker community. Many of motorcyclists could only dream of riding though totally deserted area with no danger hitting any of a living thing. Back in 1990th roads in Dead zone were pretty good and I never had problems with police. Guys at checkpoints knew I was daughter of some scientist so they would let me ride though checkpoints. Many of my photos of that time still float around on the internet. I don't remember how my photos and my stories first appeared in organized form. I believe someone from forum has collected some of my photos with comments and put them at one place.
Later materials were transferred from motorcycle forums to angelfire website, I gave it name of Ghost Town. My site became very popular in 2003- 2004 and it is when my troubles has started. My account was blocked and I lost control over my website. Papers all around the world started writing that I was a commercial trick, computer game advertisement, photoshop etc. At home I had troubles with the authorities, some people and police were looking for me so I had to change place of residence.
Somehow I succeeded to hit a raw nerve and I was very proud of that. Back in 2004 I wasn't aware of all politic behind Chernobyl so I couldn't understand why my "Ghost Town" was under attack and why so many people didn't appreciate my efforts. Now, I understand, it is because Chernobyl is human made and it never ends.
I left motorcycle forums and for six months I didn't do anything. I was waiting for the storm to be over with hope to return to normal life. I thought it was the end of the story but I was bothered. I couldn't find peace and eventually I realized that I can not just leave everything like that. I felt like my story is unfinished. This is the feeling I had during all years of my work on Chernobyl. But, can you end a story about disaster that never ends?
The harder they tried to discredit my site, the harder I worked to make new photoreportages.
Chernobyl has always been my hobby and I never was writing for money.
Since 2004 things have changed for me in Chernobyl. I never had permission to visit Dead Zone. I was denied entry and my name was in black lists on every checkpoint. I always travelled illegally... sneaking into forbidden area. Hiding from everyone, running from police and radiation. In my trips I was always on edge.
There is "big money" promised to be made in the atomic energy industry which naturally attracts powerful, big-money political and business interests who do not give a damn about the safety of reactors and health of people. Their only concern is driving profit with milking a cow, so they put it into harness, urge it with the whip and milk it without limit, .. the outcome is always the same - with the milk they are squeezing out blood.
I am not pro- or anti- nuclear activist, I am just a pro-human author who believes that significance of Chernobyl is that here was the beginning of massive poisoning of our planet with radiation. It is first serious entry in case history, and the aim of my work is to pass this valuable information into the future. I am sure our unlucky posterity will want to know how it all came about..
I do not think that atom itself is evil. It only becomes evil in human hands. Under the right conditions, atom in some forms can serve humans, under conditions where there are no wars, when the atom does not belong to communists, capitalists, Islamists, or terrorists. The problem is that the life of nations is nothing but wars and tumults; and the communists, capitalists, Islamists and terrorists are always the first who try to possess the atom. They say- it is inexcusable errors in design of reactors that made atom dangerous and I say- IT IS INEXCUSABLE ERRORS IN DESIGN OF HUMANS THAT MAKES ATOM DANGEROUS.
On a page about "Red Wood". When I said, I'd glow in the dark, I was kidding. Radiation is not seen. Ita's just a common expression. Extremely high radiation can be seen on some videos, depending of brand of the film. It appears as a little sparks. Radiation is seen on the video, "Last day of Pripyat" The author of this video, Michail Nazarenko, was making a film about an atomic plant and happened to be in Pripyat. He also filmed the evacuation there.
During the evacuation, the official level of radiation in Pripyat reached 1 Roentgen per hour. People said it was 7 Roentgens. This makes a difference, because in first case, the population would die within two or three months. In the second case, people would die within a week. I believe both claims can be right because, in the first weeks of fallout, surface radioactivity on the streets can measure much higher than radioactivity in the air at eye level.
My stories describe how I saw Chernobyl some 17-19 years after the accident, so I didn't update any info about radiation levels, number of people living in the area, etc. etc..
Some of the photos are not mine. I've placed them on my site with the permission of their respective authors. I got to thank everyone who helped me with this site and those who still help.
"Ghost Town" song is a special present for me, from a musical duo "Huns and Dr.Beeker"
I was trying to avoid using scientific terminology and basically was trying to tell about sophisticated issues with simple words. If something is unclear, please check out the Glossary
The scientific part of this story, relating to the radioactivity of different isotops is an incredibly complex field and it is almost impossible for anyone to get it right. The difference between radiation tests in laboratory and radioactivity in life is as big as between shooting range and combat. My approach is always practical.
Unfortunately, photo of "Elephant foot" in bad quality, as all pictures of this miracle it is taken with remote control. No one goes inside of that room, because in first years after the accident radiation there was about 10.000 roentgen per hour.
The "Elephant's Foot" is just the biggest formation, but it is really a small part of all the fuel that was in the reactor. The explosion forced down the reactor base and melted material had poured out of the reactor vessel and spilled into the rooms and corridors below. In this way, the reactor is empty and fuel is not concentrated in one place. This was sort of good news, because it reduced the chances of another chain reaction. The pictures below make it easier to understand how the reactor was built and where the fuel is now.
That radioactive magma has glassy look, because fuel was mixed with sand that was routinely packed around the reactor vessel.
If someone want to learn more, click here for a video that was taken deep in a basement of reactor N4 and shows the "Elephant's Foot"
The amount of fuel that is left under the sarcophagus is a subject of discussion among scientists. It is hard to explore all rooms and corridors, because radiation levels can be up to 1000 Roentgens and higher. Scientists run, when they pass such a highly radioactive place. 1000 Roentgens kills a person in just one hour. Protective suits are not effective. There are no means that can protect humans from this level of radiation.
Until the ill fated day of 26 April 1986, Chernobyl's power plant was a success. It's energy output exceeded all expectations and it's safety record was unstained. The Chief Engineer who designed Chernobyl reactor used to brag that this type of reactor was so safe, that it could be built in the Red Square in Moscow.
Chernobyl plant was providing 2 millions people with electricity and nighttime was the best time to run experiments, because the energy consumption was at the lowest level. When the "safety experiment" was scheduled to run that day, control operators were about to run their business with the same confidence as always. The purpose of contest was to evaluate the reactor's response to a "loss of electrical power". What they failed to understand was just how unstable their soviet design of reactor would become when operating at low power. All reactors operate under following principle: In the presence of uranium fuel, neutrons split the uranium atoms and initiate what is called a "self sustaining chain reaction". The energy released heats the fuel, waters circulate over this fuel, some of it turns to steam and power the turbines which generate electricity. Then all the waters recycle and returns to cool the core.
At Chernobyl's reactor number 4, the uranium was contained in seventeen hundred separate tubes surrounded by blocks of graphite that helped to keep the chain reaction going. Control rods absorb neutrons and slow the chain reaction. They are raised out of the core to increase power and lowered to decrease it. For safety a minimum of 30 control rods should remain at the core at all times. This rule is a must.. At all phases of the operation of a reactor, it's capacity for nuclear power generation must not exceed the ability of the controling rods to suppress the chain reaction. Those 30 rods are located in a zone where they have the greatest effect on the core's ability to generate power. The cooled water absorbs extra neutrons and helps to regulate the rate of the chain reaction. The danger of this reactor's design is that if the water is lost, or boils away, the extra neutrons can speed up the chain reaction until the reactor is out of the control. This is what happened at Chernobyl.
After the rupture of lower water communication lines, which carried cooling water to the core, the nuclear reactor was left entirely without water. The explosions first occurred in the fuel channels of the reactor, as they began to fall apart from the massive increase in pressure. How many steam explosions there were is unclear. Some say there were three or more, then came the final, most terrible explosion of the detonation of the gas in the core.
The main explosion was caused mainly by a combination of following factors: 1) There were only a few (may be less then 10) control rods in the reactor at the time, rods which could instantly move to counter a reactivity insertion. 2) The shut down rods went in slowly- acceleration about one fourth of what would be in free fall (g/4) in contrast to being driven in very fast as they should be. 3)To save money the tip (1 meter) of the shut down rods was GRAPHITE! This gave an instant positive surge of reactivity which could not be countered for perhaps 1/20 second.
Among other defects, flaws and failures worth mentioning is the absence of the cap (secondary containment) which prevented a similar catastrophe on Three Mile Island in the United States. Soviets were told many times that atomic plants with no caps are dangerous, but they kept building those plants, because it was 30% less expensive.
After explosion, the only way to slow chain reaction was to bomb the reactor from helicopters with neutron absorbers and other chemicals. Soon after that, many of the brave pilots died. Their photos and videos have survived. Click here for video from helicopter.
Don't miss 6 minutes long video of Vladimir Shevchenko, called "Chronicle of Severe Days"
Here is video that shows "biorobots" at work, it their final stage of cleaning on the roof.
Below are photos of our May 1st "milliroentgen" parade. It probably was only parade without party bosses and members of their families taking part in it. As is true of all times, "first class passengers" left the sinking ship first, so their families left for Kiev on April 26, as soon as they learned about the explosion at the nuclear plant.
No one was punished for hiding the truth from people.
Punished were only the guys from the nuclear plant. Photos of trial are posted below.. A group of six atomic plant personal have been sentenced to different terms from 2 to 10 years. Only Deputy Chief engineer partly admitted his guilt. "I was guilty but so was the system, he said.
In 1991, the Soviet Union has collapsed. Since then, some things have changed: communists became democrats, Komsomol leaders became businessmen, judges and prosecutors became politicians and government officials. What became of the people who once trusted to their leaders and went out to clean up area around the reactor? Each one, left alone with his or her own cancer, knows that he or she will die and after his or her death, the toll of victims will still remain at.. 31 !!!
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Thanks, everyone for reading.