Beginning of a story about town where one can ride with no stoplights, no police, no danger to hit some cage or some dog .
To start our story we must learn a little something about radiation. It is really very simple, and the device we use for measuring radiation levels is called a geiger counter . If you flick it on in Kiev, it will measure about 12-16 microroentgen per hour. In a typical city of Russia and America, it will read 10-12 microroentgen per hour. In the center of many European cities are 20 microR per hour, the radioactivity of the stone.
1,000 microroentgens equal one milliroentgen and 1,000 milliroentgens equal 1 roentgen. So one roentgen is 100,000 times the average radiation of a typical city. A dose of 500 roentgens within 5 hours is fatal to humans. Interestingly, it takes about 2 1/2 times that dosage to kill a chicken and over 100 times that to kill a cockroach.
This sort of radiation level can not be found in Chernobyl now. In the first days after explosion, some places around the reactor were emitting 3,000-30,000 roentgens per hour. The firemen who were sent to put out the reactor fire were fried on the spot by gamma radiation. The remains of the reactor were entombed within an enormous steel and concrete sarcophagus, so it is now relatively safe to travel to the area – as long as we do not step off of the roadway…….
The map above shows the radiation levels in different parts of the dead zone. The map will soon be replaced with a more comprehensive one that identifies more features. It shows various levels of radiation on asphalt – usually on the middle of road – because at edge of the road it is twice as high. If you step 1 meter off the road it is 4 or 5 times higher. Radiation sits on the soil, on the grass, in apples and mushrooms. It is not retained by asphalt, which makes rides through this area possible.
On the Friday evening of April 25, 1986, the reactor crew at Chernobyl-4, prepared to run a test the next day to see how long the turbines would keep spinning and producing power if the electrical power supply went off line. This was a dangerous test, but it had been done before. As a part of the preparation, they disabled some critical control systems – including the automatic shutdown safety mechanisms.
Shortly after 1:00 AM on April 26, the flow of coolant water dropped and the power began to increase.
At 1:23 AM, the operator moved to shut down the reactor in its low power mode and a domino effect of previous errors caused an sharp power surge, triggering a tremendous steam explosion which blew the 1000 ton cap on the nuclear containment vessel to smithereens.
Some of the 211 control rods melted and then a second explosion, whose cause is still the subject of disagreement among experts, threw out fragments of the burning radioactive fuel core and allowed air to rush in – igniting several tons of graphite insulating blocks.
Once graphite starts to burn, its almost impossible to extinguish. It took 9 days and 5000 tons of sand, boron, dolomite, clay and lead dropped from helicopters to put it out. The radiation was so intense that many of those brave pilots died. Radiation will stay in the Chernobyl area for the next 48.000 years, but humans may begin repopulating the area in about 600 years – give or take three centuries. The experts predict that, by then, the most dangerous elements will have disappeared – or been sufficiently diluted into the rest of the world’s air, soil and water. If our government can somehow find the money and political will power to finance the necessary scientific research, perhaps a way will be discovered to neutralize or clean up the contamination sooner. Otherwise, our distant ancestors will have to wait untill the radiation diminishes to a tolerable level. If we use the lowest scientific estimate, that will be 300 years from now……some scientists say it may be as long as 900 year The Communist government that was in power then kept silent about this accident. In Kiev, they forced people to take part in their preciously stupid labor day parade and it was then that ordinary people began hearing the news of the accident from foreign radio stations and relatives of those who died. The real panic began 7-10 days after accident. Those who were exposed to the exceedingly high levels of nuclear radiation in the first 10 days when it was still a state secret, incuding unsuspecting visitors to the area, either died or have serious health problems.
There won’t be many cars on those roads. This place has ill fame and people try not to settle here. The farther we go, the cheaper the land, the less the people and the better the roads.. quite the reverse of everywhere else in the world – and a forecast of things to come. In the picture you can see giant egg – which marks the point where civilization as we know it ends – and the Chernobyl ride begins.