Alpha, Beta, Gamma.
I am a night owl and it is hard for me to find a partner for night rides. Every time I bring someone here, they ask why are we crushing frogs in Chernie and not drinking beer in some cozy cafe ... I always tell them that smoking two packs of cigarets in cafe can be more harmful for health than riding to Vilcha. They mostly just want to get the hell out of here. People think this land is cursed.
I myself don't believe in stories about mutants or chernobyl snowman. To me it is an interesting place.
On outskirts of Vilcha, my new generation hand-held Geiger counter "inspector" reads 109 mR/hr. My friend "inspector" measures all types of radiation known to man. Now, it is time to learn a couple of simple things about radiation types.
Ones that goes through us is called gamma radiation, it is cumulative, it adds up, so we can calculate what a damage it make for health. Gamma is almost identical X-rays. X-rays are human made, while gamma occurs in nature. It is also called a cosmic radiation. Everyone who flys in high altitude aircraft is exposed to 25 mR/hr of cosmic radiation. Gamma is the toughest type of radiation for immediate problems. Gamma is a wave. It is sort of like invisible bullets that can kill in hours. Alpha and beta on the other hand are particles and work as a time-bomb. With breathing of radiactive dust, they getting inside of a human body, lodges there and in a few years expload with the cancer cells. Alpha particles are the heaviest of the three, betas are extremely light and gammas have no mass at all. Alpha radiation generally can not travel 4-12cms (1-3 inches) before it stoped, so we can play billiard with balls of a pure plutonium. The dead cells on our skin will stop Alpha radiation, so even juggling with plutonium balls would be safe.
If we travel through the area, where radiation level do not exceed 100 mR/hr, then in one hour we'll receive the same dosage of gamma rays that receiving the passenger of plane Kiev-London during a few hours of their trip. I don't fly to London, so I can travel to Vilcha where I'll get the same mild dose.
Unfortunately we can not count the alpha and beta particles that we inhale, yet they are the major risk. In the first year after a disaster, the radioactive particles stay on the ground. I'd have to kiss my shoes goodbye if I'd walked on this grass. Likewise, I'd contaminate and paralyze my Geiger counter if I dared let it touch the radiactive surface. Riding here an open vehicle would be as insane as swallow up those plutonium balls. But now, as I said, radiation has gone into the soil and levels have fallen. A good thing about it is that now we can travel through these areas with little health risk, but bad thing is that now this land breathes with radiation from deep inside and it's become hard to make further headway with the decontamination process.
These days, radiation lives in cucumbers and apples, and having a Geiger counter at the greengrocery market is as useful as to have one here. A major concern is the mushrooms. We eat 6 times as much as most Americans. The chemicals in the mushrooms are worse than the Cs137 (even though Cs levels have not decreased in the mushrooms as much as half life of Cs137)
In any way, enough of that scientific stuff, let's continue our journey at the day light.