When taking a look at human history, it is quite astonishing to see the advancements that we have made in the last hundred years. We have gone from traveling from one place to another in a horse drawn wagon, to landing a man on the moon in the course of less than eighty years. We have made tremendous strides in terms of making the everyday life of the individual easier than the day before. However, this has not come without it’s downsides.
Where there are greater rewards, there are greater risks. When taking a look at some of the great advancements in technology, nuclear power is one of the most important. This type of power is used by billions around the world to this day. While it does a great job of powering cities, the risk that come with it is quite large. A great example would be the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine back in 1986.
The Chernobyl disaster is regarded as one of the worst if not the worst, nuclear disasters in human history.
This disaster transpired on 26. April 1986 about 65 miles north of Kiev in Ukraine, which at the time was controlled by the Soviet Union.
The Chernobyl accident was a combination of bad design of the nuclear power plant, which also did not have a containment enclosure, along with the errors produced by the operators of the same, voluntarily leaving several safety systems out of service in order to carry out an experiment, in the framework of a system in which training was scarce, and in which there was no independent regulatory body.
The Soviet Union did not have an independent system of inspection and evaluation of the safety of nuclear facilities, that is, a regulatory body, as in Western countries. The design of a reactor of the RBMK type would never have been authorized in Western countries. In fact, a reactor of this design has never been built outside the former Soviet Union. The operational practices of the Soviet reactors were not comparable to those of the Western countries. They would have never been allowed
At the time, Chernobyl was the biggest, yet oldest nuclear power plant at the time. Not only that, but the soviet design was flawed, and when all of these variables came together at once the outcome was absolutely devastating and we are still seeing many of the side effects to this day. The reactor crew for Chernobyl were planning on doing a routine test run with a new design that had just been provided, but in the end there was a loss of pressure, over heating all of which resulted in unstable conditions, a sudden power surge, which in turn led to a series of blasts that blew the 1,000-ton steel top off of the reactor. Hot fuel reacted with cold water which lead to the ultimate downfall and destruction of powerplant 4 and eventually the whole operation.
Many areas in Europe were contaminated. Although some areas have turned into more stable positions, many will remain radioactive for many years. After the explosion the people that lived in areas close by were quickly evacuated. Surface contamination was a big problem, and in many areas the radioactive levels are the same as the day it happened. There was mass contamination of crops, meat and milk in the early moths after the incident.
Researchers have concluded that the radioactive gases and particles were carried by the wind north, west, east, and even south, basically meaning that all of Europe eventually was effected by Chernobyl. The Red Forest around the original site of the explosion is a good examples of some of the immediate effects of this horrendous disaster. This forest, once full of life, is now a wasteland. The Red Forest received the highest doses of radiation from the Chernobyl accident and the resulting clouds of smoke and dust, heavily polluted the area with radiation. Subsequently all the trees in the forest died. The Chernobyl No. 4 reactor contaminated the soil, water and atmosphere with radioactive material equivalent to that of 20 times the radiation of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Now after many years food products are expected to remain radioactive for decades to come. Many lakes and rivers were contaminated including all of the organisms that lived inside of these environemts. There are areas in which radioactive levels have decreased, but a lot of it has seeped into the soil. There had been an increase in mortality and a decrease in reproduction and many genetic anomalies in plants and animals are still being seen today. The areas around the disaster will be uninhabitable for the next three hundred years. To this day the site of the disaster is closed off to the general public by the Russian military.
This is a very good research topic because it deals with technology that is used to this day and that will be used for hundreds of years to come. It will be a good experience to learn about this event, see what was done right, and wrong in the events that lead up to the disaster, and of the events that happened in the cleanup of the disaster. It is impossible to say with certainty that an event like this will never happen again, and the best thing that can be done is learn from these mistakes in order to prevent it from happening in the future. Those who do not learn their history are bound to repeat it.
To what extent did cleanup techniques in the aftermath of the Chernobyl make an impact on the levels of radioactivity?
Since the disaster was of such great magnitude, my hypothesis is that none of the methods used were as successful as originally planned, but that the method that best works was that of constructing a dome around reactor number 4 to contain the remaining radioactive substances. One can assume that the most effective way was to go straight for the source of the problem.
The risk assessment is low since I will not physically be travelling to the Chernobyl disaster sight or different parts of Europe. Instead I will be gathering information that has been well documented by different scientists and experts that have done that, studying this information, and coming to a conclusion myself. The risk will be of having to depend on information that has already been provided and hoping that the information given is correct. This is why I will only be abiding by trusted sources in order to get the most accurate depiction of the different numbers in order to answer my research question.
When taking a look at the graphs, it can be seen that the best effort to prevent further radiation spread was by creating a dome of sorts called the New Safe Confinement or NSC, around the original plant blocking it off from the world. This dome, being taller than the statue of liberty, was built because scientists concluded that based off the reports, that they should go for the route of the problem in order to decrease the most amount of radiation. It can highly be compared to a sinking boat that has a leak. One wouldn’t keep using a bucket throw the water out that is coming into the boat. The best course of action would be to plug up the leaks first, and then it would be easier to focus on getting the rest of the water out. Radioactivity levels have gone down in different areas and what can be seen in the charts is that the farther away the area is, the faster the levels went down, and that the areas closest to the disaster have gone down but at a rate that is much slower than those that are farther away.
When taking a look at my hypothesis which was, Since the disaster was of such great magnitude, none of the methods used were as successful as originally planned, but that the method that best works were that of constructing a dome around reactor number 4 to contain the remaining radioactive substances. One can assume that the most effective way was to go straight for the source of the problem, I can now see that my hypothesis was in fact correct. The numbers significantly dropped after the dome or NSC was built around Nuclear Reactor number 4. Based off the graphs and numbers, this information is of great importance and this is the method that should be used if anything similar happens in the future.