If you caught our show on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster you’ll know all about what happened on April 25, 1986 and the way it shook the world. What you would possibly not know is that it could have been much, much worse had it not been for the extremely brave people we are visiting talk about today. But first let’s see what happened thereon fateful day. before the disaster there were around 14,000 people living during this Ukrainian city of Chernobyl which is located around 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of the capital, Kiev. you’ll actually visit there today, but it’s somewhat a town and the few residents that live there stay outside of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
What happened back within the 80s was basically an explosion of one of the reactors at the nuclear plant. It’s said around 50 people died as an immediate result of the explosion, but the planet Health Organization tells us that around 4000 people died as an indirect result of the big bang. We are further told that thousands of individuals were exposed to high levels of radiation, but millions more were exposed to lower levels of radiation. the complete extent of the damage is difficult to say, but the WHO says some people that were exposed to this radiation have a higher risk of getting cancer in their lifetime.
How did it happen? We’ll answer that first then get around to the question of what could have happened if it weren’t for our exceptionally valiant trio of heroes sometimes called the suicide squad. We could basically say human error, but like many disasters there was what you might call a perfect storm of things that went wrong. we’ll summarize here as we have done a show on this already. the planet Nuclear Association explains that workers at Chernobyl reactor 4 were doing tests and to cut a long story short the power of the reactor plummeted and so workers tried to increase the power.
There was then an influence surge and all hell was about to break loose. There was plenty of steam and a huge amount of pressure was building up inside one of the reactors. This eventually blew off a 1000-ton lid on the reactor, causing radiation to leak while air got into the reactor, which caused a fireplace , a really big fire. A second explosion ensued when hydrogen was formed by predicament steam contacting zirconium. This was even bigger than the primary explosion. Now there was debris flying around, fires breaking out, dust so thick it had been hard to see, an electricity black out and no working phone lines. it had been mayhem.
Firefighters did arrive, though, but they weren’t conscious of all that dangerous radiation in the air. Even after they did manage to contain the blaze, the workers, also as the residents of the town, didn’t know what kind of danger they were in. It took hours to totally put that raging fire out, but nothing could stop the spread of radiation that was now travelling far and wide. As we said, some people still sleep in parts of town today but not in the areas that were most hit by the radiation. you’ll even take a tour of the town that was and it is supposed to be a spooky experience as people just up and left, leaving many of their things behind them.
It’s now said wild animals have come from the nearby forests and that they are the new inhabitants of the town. Ok, so what could have happened? within the book, “Chernobyl 01:23:40: The Incredible True Story of the World’s Worst Nuclear Disaster” we are told that under the reactor was an enormous pool of water which was there to act as a coolant. What the workers knew, or a number of them, was that they couldn’t allow all the recent radioactive metal to reach that pool of water. The author of the book said in an interview, “If that happened it might have triggered a second steam explosion that would have done unimaginable damage and destroyed the entire power station, including the three other reactors.”
He goes as far on say that such a blast could have denuded Europe of about half of its citizens and would have left parts of the continent uninhabitable for many thousands of years due to radiation. he’s not alone, either, in saying that. A former Soviet physicist called Vassili Nesterenko said this: “Our experts studied the likelihood and concluded that the explosion would have had a force of three to five megatons. Minsk, which is 320 kilometers from Chernobyl, would are razed and Europe rendered uninhabitable.” this is often where the suicide squad comes in. These guys knew that that they had to drain the pool, but there was an issue in that the basement was flooded and they couldn’t get to the valves to drain it.
One story goes that three men on the scene, two plant staff and one soldier, decided to man up and don wetsuits and swim through the water to urge to these valves. It’s said that they had light, on the other hand when their lamp failed to work they were in total darkness. They were told that this mission was likely a martyr operation because if they didn’t drown they were probably going to die from such a huge amount of radiation exposure. Yep, it seems like a Hollywood movie and we can imagine the tear-jerking crescendo as these brave guys swim in darkness and there are ample cuts to their distraught wives and wailing children. But this aint Hollywood, this is often real life.
While there may are cheers as those men managed to open the valves and drain the pool, if there was an extended version of the film it might include three men then dying slowly in a hospital from acute radiation syndrome. this is often often abbreviated to ARS. Now the movie cuts to 3 guys vomiting all the time, having seizures, terrible headaches, feeling dizzy, perhaps experiencing necrosis of the skin and ultimately dying a very horrible death. This we’d say is not so much Hollywood but grim European realism. it’d actually work in Russian cinema, but such a movie would be way too depressing to draw in Hollywood financiers.
This was the story that circulated for an extended time, but the author of that book we just mentioned said he spent five years researching the disaster and he discovered that things were a little different. “The basement entry, while dangerous, wasn’t quite as dramatic as modern myth would have you ever believe,” he said in an interview. He said that firefighters had tried to empty the pool before these three guys, all plant workers and no soldiers, came onto the scene. He said many of us had tried to empty that pool, and that we don’t know what happened to them. He also said it’s true that the basement was flooded and it was hard to find the valves, but he said the water was only waist high.
Still, radiation was everywhere and therefore the men, Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov, were in danger as they waded around in search of those valves. “It was like finding a needle during a haystack,” said the author , adding that this place was an enormous network of valves and pipes and finding the right one seemed impossible to those men. But they found the proper valves in the end. “When the searchlight beam fell on a pipe, we were joyous,” one among the men later said in an interview with the Soviet media. “The pipe led to the valves,” he added, and it had been a job well done. They then turned the valves and that they heard the rush of water being emptied from the tank.
It’s said altogether there was about 5 million gallons of water, which is overflow 18 million liters. Then it did get a touch Hollywood we are told as when the men got back to the rest of the people waiting for them to finish their mission there was a lot of hooting and hugs. But what about the slow painful death from ARS? Well, we are told that didn’t happen the way it’s sometimes been described. It’s said one among those three guys died some years later from a heart attack, but the others survived. The author of the book said he knew that one among them was still working in the same industry and the other he knew was certainly alive up until 2015 at least.
He quite lost the man after that year. People did die of ARS after this disaster, but not those three men consistent with him. He said it’s quite hard to urge to the heart of the matter as after the event the Soviet Union tried to downplay the incident and all the most accurate information has still not been translated from Russian. He did say though that those three guys likely prevented a much bigger disaster happening that could have killed millions of people. In an interview he said, “They still went into a coal black , badly damaged basement beneath a molten reactor core that was slowly burning its way right down to them.”
We might also say that many people risked their lives during this disaster and during the long cleanup after. These folks are sometimes called the liquidators, and that they number in the thousands. consistent with something called the Chernobyl Union, “25,000 of the Russian liquidators are dead and 70,000 disabled, about the identical in Ukraine, and 10,000 dead in Belarus and 25,000 disabled.” we’d add, though, that the amount of people said to have gotten sick or died because of exposure to large amounts of radiation is a very controversial topic and many reports differ.
Studies have also shown that the many people exposed to smaller amounts of radiation should not be at higher risk of cancer, except perhaps thyroid cancer. we will say with assurance, though, that plenty of brave people put their lives at risk. In an interview, one among those liquidators said he knew the risks but he just had to do his job. “I am worried for the longer term , sure,” he said. “I get my blood checked twice a month. i’m going through the scanners four times a day. But the pay is sweet and someone has to do this.” We are told that the areas most exposed to large amounts of radiation won’t be safe to measure for 20,000 years.
What does one think about this story? Would you have gone down to find those valves? Tell us in the comments. Also, make certain to check out our other video What Caused the Catastrophic Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl?