“The official position of the state is that global nuclear catastrophe is not possible in the Soviet Union.”
“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid.”
It is gripping, it shocks you, it makes you rethink the cost of living, but it just scratches the skin of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Chernobyl.
HBO’s new mini-series, named the same is a chilling account of what happened on the fateful day of April 26,1986, but there is more to it in reality, most of which were suppressed due to political factors and less important human factors.
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former Ukrainian SSR was the status symbol of Soviets, it was their big card entry into nuclear energy sphere, but USSR wanted reactors to be cheap at the cost of safety and human life.
However, what angered the scientists and people under the iron curtain was the State’s obsession with lies to keep its image clean. Chernobyl was so big that even the entire Soviet Union could not stop it and I guess it was also the final blow to the already collapsing Soviet Union.
The State Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev,” The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 20 years ago this month, even more than my launch of Perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.”
How Does An RBMK Reactor Blow Up?
Actually, they don’t, but it did at Chernobyl.
Thanks to the scientist Valery Legasov, we now know how an RBMK reactor blows up. Valery was the scientist-in-charge of the entire clean up procedure and he had to stop any major catastrophe while the reactor’s core was still burning and excreting radioactive material.
Valery Legasov posthumously played an important role in getting all the RBMK reactors in Soviet corrected.
However, the State wanted to conceal everything that led to Chernobyl.
The RBMK is a class of graphite-moderated nuclear power reactor designed and built by the Soviet Union. The RBMK is an early Generation II reactor and the oldest commercial reactor design still in wide operation.
Timeline of What happened at Chernobyl
April 25th, 1986, 1 AM – Chernobyl’s operators begin reducing power at reactor No. 4 in preparation for a safety test.
The Test was to check the backup system in case of power failure, plant’s still-spinning turbines can produce enough electricity to keep coolant pumps running during the brief gap before the emergency generators kick in.
April 25,1986, 1 PM – All the safety checks have been switched off to have no interruption while the test was on.
April25,1986, 11:10 PM– The reactor number four operators get a go-ahead for the test, by this time the night shift had taken over which was less experienced and virtually had no understanding and no guidance for the test.
Meanwhile, the power grid operator in Pripyat city does not allow electricity to go down and for next 10 hours, the reactor has been on no safety checks, minimum power and a substance called Xenon is poisoning reactor’s core.
April 26, 1986, 12:28 a.m– The power goes down the minimum level of electricity for reactor’s operation, Operators respond by removing most of the control rods in violation of the plant’s safety guidelines, yet they still have trouble raising the power, in part due to xenon build-up in the core.
Control Rods- They are the crucial element in the functioning of the reactor as they are final fail-check before the tragedy strikes. Please understand Nuclear Reactor as a car, which is moving as it creates energy…. Now Control Rods are the brakes of this car, which in this case can either accelerate or deaccelerate the car.
April 26,1986, 1 AM– Power is stabilized however, it is much lower than the desired power of 700 Watts, the test which was planned at 700 W was about to take place on only 300 W.
The Power Surge
April 26, 1986, 1:23:04 a.m.: The test officially begins, and an unexpected power surge occurs.
April 26,1986, 1:23:40 a.m.: Operator Akhimov, presses the emergency safety button, often referred to as AZ-5 Button in Soviet Reactors. The reactor, which was built to produce a power output of 3200 W, was last recorded at 30,000 W
AZ-5 Button– Pushes all the control rods back into reactor but, these rods have graphite tips and the core is already poisoned with Xenon. Graphite Reacts with poisonous core leading a large discharge of steam, which blows up the roof of the reactor and leads blast in the reactor’s core. Since the plant had been running at the lowest output for 10 hours, followed by Xenon in the reactor’s core, Pumping and Back-up generators failed, It was a disaster waiting to happen.
April 26,1986, 1:23:58 a.m- The first explosion, to be quickly followed by at least one more, blows the 1,000-ton roof right off the reactor and shoots a fireball high into the night sky.
The last Fail-Check itself was the last nail on the coffin.
It Never Happened, These are not lies
- While within 36 hours of the accident, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark reported increased radioactivity, Soviet authorities acknowledged that the disaster had happened after almost 2 and a half days, however, the official Soviet word included “everything under control” and nuclear radiation is “well within limits”.
- Germany, which is more than 1800, KMs away, by this time had instructed students in Frankfurt to not play outside and shut down schools, While children in Pripyat, 10 KMs away from Chernobyl were playing in the open air.
- Also, the operators on that night Akimov and Toptunov were against the test after the test had gone drastically wrong but head comrade, Dyatlov gave a go ahead as he wanted to report a complete test.
- Firefighters were informed that the Chernobyl’s roof was on fire moreover; authorities had called in everyone from the morning shift at the plant near the reactor number 4 entrance.
- It took 4 days to evacuate the town of Pripyat, which was labeled safe immediately after the blast, many were asked to leave belongings as they were to come back within two days
- April 29, Chernobyl disaster is the 9th item on the news on Soviet TVs.
- Soviets had indicated that the reactivity around the Pripyat was close to 100 Roentgen, however, that was all the meters could measure up to, sophisticated meter showed 3200 roentgen, which has been classified as a secret and never, told to public, it is expected to be around this, today around Chernobyl it is 600.
- Finally, in the International Court of Justice trial in Vienna, Scientist Legasov blamed the reactor operators for the error and the blast, while declaring that the reactors were safe in the Soviet Union, He Lied!
- In a cover-up judicial inquiry, Legasov mentioned that state’s obsession with lies and false propaganda followed by constant money saving techniques costed the Chernobyl accident, He said that the same flaw continues to be in all the running reactors in the Soviet Union.
- And in the other three reactors of the Chernobyl, the state did not hear to this and did not bring any changes to the reactors until Legasov’s recorded tapes about the reactors went viral after he had committed suicide – and for truth State pulled back the ‘Hero of Soviet Union’ award that it had given to the scientist.
- Soviets claimed only 31 died that night and after that but many sources indicate that almost 4,000 to 93,000 died, Ukraine and Belarus have most cases of thyroid cancer in the world. Children were born prematurely or with defects, children also born with frog legs and many still suffer radiation.
- Today, 33 years on, Vladimir Putin has dismissed the TV miniseries as US misinformation and reportedly said Russia will make its own “version” blaming the CIA for the blast. Like radiation, Kremlin propaganda has a long half-life.
“После драки кулаками не машут.”
Literally: They do not swing fists when the fight is over.
It is said when someone tries to change what has been done when it’s already too late when nothing can be changed or undone. After the fight is finished, there is no sense in acting aggressively (swinging your fists), complaining, or being upset.
7 thoughts on “ The Cost of Lies: Why Chernobyl is the symbol of failed Soviet Union ”
Made me watch the series 3 times
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Hi Sorry, for the late reply. Thank you for such an illustrative feedback. I am happy to make changes. Regards
Great post. I’m experiencing a few of these issues as well..
Such a disaster and at what cost….heartbreaking…Harshit your writing is wonderful!!! Keep it up!!!
Thank you so much. The official count since the night of the accident (maintained by Soviets and Ukraine ) is 36 lives. However, 100s of thousands of children born after the accident had birth deformations. Ukraine has the highest rate of cancers in the world and still an area of 1,00,000 sq km is uninhabitable for next 1000 years.
Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth, Sooner or Later that debt is paid.