In a previous post , we talked about the events that happened on the night of the reactor explosion and the things that caused that explosion. At that time, people were not convinced that the core had exploded, knowing that it was impossible for the core of such reactors to explode. Also, Professor Legasov of the committee that was set up to discuss the details of the accident was the first person to notice that the accident was caused by the core explosion.
The reactor core has exploded, what does this mean, and how catastrophic is it? You will know the answer in this article:
This RBMK-type reactor uses uranium-235 as fuel. Each atom of this substance, like a bullet, travels at a velocity of sound and can penetrate everything in front of it. In addition, every gram of this substance contains more than a billion trillion atoms. Chernobyl contained more than three million grams, meaning the number of atoms in the site was more than three million billion billion trillion atoms. The number is truly horrendous! Consequently, when these atoms become exposed, they get carried by the wind and scatter everywhere: in the air, in the water, and in everything that people use. The velocity of most of these atoms will not slow down for a hundred years in the future. Some of them will even last for thousands of years.
After the professor Legasov concluded that the core might have exploded, orders were given to him and one of the officials named Boris Scherbina to go by themselves to Chernobyl and investigate the site. Therefore, when they reached the site of the explosion aboard a helicopter, Legasov actually saw graphite on the roof of the building, which means that the core really exploded because it was the only place that contained the graphite. However, in order to fully verify this, the army was able to provide a high-level radiometer and use an armored vehicle to approach the site of the explosion and measure the radiation. They found that the radiation level had actually reached 15,000 roentgen. Not 3.6! as Dyatlov and the others said. The 15,000 roentgen was without a doubt evidence that the core had exposed.
This degree of nuclear radiation was twice that of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. And these radiation continued to be released every hour, as if there were two nuclear bombs like Hiroshima exploding in the place every hour. To this degree! I mean, as if there were 42 nuclear bombs silently exploding in this place every day! In fact, this thing will not stop for a very, very long time, and these radiations will continue to be emitted and spread until they cover all of Europe. Europe would have been uninhabitable. This thing was the true meaning of disaster and calamity. To make it worse, this disaster is a completely new thing that has not been dealt with before. The only way they thought of to contain this radiation, even if only partially, was to bury it under thousands of tons of sand. And they actually started using helicopters to drop sand onto the burning reactor. Of course, this was a huge challenge, especially since these helicopters were not able to fly directly over the reactor.
On the other side, the residents of Propiyat, a city near Chernobyl, were the most exposed to the radiations. The Soviet Union was supposed to evacuate the city at full speed, but they strongly hesitated to do so in order not to alert the world that there is a disaster of this magnitude happening to them. Instead, they were trying to cover up the matter. However, only one day later, a nuclear plant in Sweden detected the emitted radiations. And through the analysis, they were able to determine that these radiations came from the uranium used by the Soviet Union. America was also able to take satellite images of the accident. Thus, News of this disaster spread throughout the world. As a result, the Soviets were forced to admit what happened in front of the world, and there was no reason to delay the evacuation of the city and the townspeople were actually warned that the city would be completely evacuated. But the Soviets are still obsessed with minimizing the accident as much as possible because their image matters to them more than anything else. I mean, even after evacuating the city, they told its residents that they would return in only two weeks. Even if you go to the city today, you will find the people’s belongings still present, as if the inhabitants disappeared in an instant and the city turned into a ghost town.
Legasov and Boris Scherbina’s team continued to strive to contain the situation, but things kept getting even worse! When they were throwing sand on the exploded reactor, they knew that this sand would suppress the heat released by the radioactive materials, but this heat and the radioactive nuclear materials when covered with sand turn into lava. Therefore, this lava begins to penetrate the earth. Under the reactor, there were large water tanks which they thought were emptied. The problem is that if this lava reaches the water below, it will vaporize it and thus cause a very huge explosion. It was estimated that the force of this explosion might reach 4 megatons. Everything at a distance of up to 30 km in diameter will be wiped off and destroyed completely, including the remaining three reactors in Chernobyl. All radiation and nuclear material contained in the cores of these reactors will be destroyed. On top of this, it will spread over huge areas due to the huge explosion, and these radiation will be deadly to all life forms within 200 kilometers from Chernobyl, and above that the whole European continent will be affected frighteningly. Ukraine and the neighboring country of Belarus would have been completely unlivable 100 years in the future. Not to mention the number of people living in these two countries which reaches 60 million people, so they had to act quickly! To save the situation, they had to empty these tanks from the inside and the only people who knew the place underwhelmingly were the station workers. The problem is that the radiation in the water and these water tanks will be unreasonably dangerous and the more likely that anyone who enters this place will be dead within a week at most, but there was no other choice. Three of the people must sacrifice themselves to save a lot of lives.
A conference was held to discuss this matter and present it to the workers. Of course all the workers were afraid and hesitant. But finally, three people or HEROES volunteered to enter these tanks and empty them completely. All three people have to be remembered because they saved Europe and the entire world from a mass destruction. These three are Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov. These three were equipped with anti-radiation suits, but even with these suits it was expected that they would die within a week at most due to the amount of radiation. Not only that, but they were likely to die while inside the tanks. To this extent the radiation was strong in this place. However, these three succeeded in reaching the pumps that drain the water from the tanks, and they were able to get out of the place alive. And even though they sacrificed their lives, what they did saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
Over the following months, problems and challenges persisted, but Professor Legasov and the scientists who accompanied him proved that they were up to the challenge. The risk of a greater explosion has been dealt with. But now they have to deal with the long-term danger. The radioactive materials spread over large areas of up to 200,000 km, so all this area was supposed to be evacuated from humans, in addition to killing all the animals in it, whether they are pets or wild. As for the area near Chernobyl, it has become the most dangerous area, everything in this region, stones, trees, and the land itself were saturated with very dangerous radioactive materials. The forests and land must be cleared completely, and a structure containing the entire station must be built to prevent any additional radioactive leaks. These tasks were supposed to take over three years and over half a million people to complete. It was also expected that tens of thousands of these people would die. Indeed, about 600,000 people volunteered to do this huge work, including workers, engineers, doctors and scientists. Yeah! They VOLUNTEERED to be in the most dangerous place on Earth at the time. These people were called ‘’Chernobyl Liquidators’’. Thanks to their tremendous efforts, most of the area around Chernobyl was cleared and liquidated. Nothing was left unclean!
During this period, Professor Legasov and the rest of the scientists were still trying to discover the cause of the mysterious explosion that had occurred. And after research and a long period of investigation, they were able to determine that the main cause of the explosion was a malfunction in the AZ-5 button located on the Soviet RBMK-type reactors. The button that was supposed to be the safety button has turned into a button of mass destruction. In most cases, this button had to function normally, but in the state of the reactor that night, which was due to Dyatlov’s recklessness and stupidity, the effect of the button was reversed, and the reason for this is that The SCRAM was started when the AZ-5 button of the reactor emergency protection system was pressed: this fully inserted all control rods, including the manual control rods that had been withdrawn earlier. A bigger problem was a flawed graphite-tip control rod design, which initially displaced coolant before inserting neutron-absorbing material to slow the reaction. As a result, the SCRAM actually increased the reaction rate in the lower half of the core whcih led to the explosion of the core. The reason for making control rods’ heads out of graphite is because it is cheaper to make them this way. I mean, imagine this horrific disaster happened because the Soviet Union chose the cheapest option instead of the safe option in designing the control rods of their reactors.
Of course, when Legasov and the rest of the scientists reached this result, the Soviet Union tried to make them cover up the matter because for them, this was a big scandal in front of the whole world, including their enemies. Legasov was prepared to do so in exchange for fixing the problem in the rest of the reactors. The problem is that officials in the Soviet Union were too late in implementing this reform process, and most likely the reason was that they still refuse to admit their mistake to the world and do not want these reforms to cause confusion about their reactors and the quality of their industry. Their image mattered more than anything else. This was the greatest problem, so Legasov decided he would not be silent about it.
A trial was held to try those responsible for this disaster, including Dyatlov, the station manager and chief engineer. One of the witnesses in this case is Professor Legasov. During his testimony in court, he talked about everything concerning the incident, the reason behind the explosion of the reactor and the defect that has not been repaired until that day. After what Professor Legasov did, he was arrested and detained by the KGB; thus, they told him that from today he will be under surveillance, this will be the end of his career and that his deeds and tremendous efforts will be erased and forgotten forever. Two years later, unfortunately, Professor Legasov committed suicide after recording several audio tapes in which he tells everything that happened in chernobyl at that time, which are considered the most important evidence of those events, especially that the Soviet Union was trying to hide them.
After the death of Professor Legasov, the Soviet Union fixed the defect in their reactors, and all the nuclear reactors were repaired in order that the Chernobyl accident would not be repeated again. To this day, the official number of victims of this accident according to the Soviet Union and Russia does not exceed 31 people, but of course it is impossible to know the real number To the victims. However, depending on real estimates, the number of victims can exceed hundreds of thousands of people, between those who died directly and people who died due to exposure to radiation or diseases such as cancer.