(EnviroNews World News) — Chornobyl, Ukraine — As the 30-year anniversary of the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl rapidly approaches, the site still remains a huge threat to Ukraine and bordering Belarus, but also to the planet at large, though many people remain very unaware of that ominous fact.
On April 26, 1986, an experiment conducted in the middle of the night by an operator with a bad idea went horribly wrong. The result: a catastrophic explosion, nuclear fire, and full-blown meltdown in Chernobyl’s reactor 4 unit that launched radioactive gasses high into the atmosphere.
Then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made one of the toughest decisions a leader could be asked to make, but to this day, most people say he made the right one, while some say the man may have saved the world itself. He made the tragically difficult choice to throw some 600,000 men directly at the melting, spewing, nuclear dragon, in an effort that should go down in the record books next to any great fight amongst men. Yes, the battle between Chernobyl’s dragon on-the-loose, and Gorbachev’s Red Army, will be one forever burned into the memories of those who know the tale.
You see, only about four percent of what could have been released from Chernobyl was released, due to the valiant efforts of the “bio-robots,” the “liquidators,” and the “Miners of Toula.” Virtual suicide missions flown by 600 helicopter pilots where sand, boron, dolomite, clay and lead were dropped directly into the fumes of the melting reactor, must also be given substantial credit.
Many of the bio-robots and liquidators had a specific task — a duty vital to the success of the mission: suit up in full lead suits, run quickly onto the roof of the reactor, and scoop one or two shovels of reactor core debris, off the roof and onto the ground several stories below — and then the man’s duty in the epic battle was fulfilled. In those brief few moments, usually totaling 45-90 seconds, the men would receive heroic doses of radiation, twisting and frying their DNA and bodily tissues, even through the extremely heavy lead suits they were wearing.
The purpose of throwing these many young men into harm’s way — in direct proximity to fully exposed, smoldering, uranium fuel rods, was because the radiation was so high on the roof from the rods and other reactor debris, that the massive entombment they were frantically attempting to construct, the now infamous Chernobyl sarcophagus, couldn’t be built over the reactor — not without first removing the rubble from the roof.
After the aptly nicknamed “liquidators” had accomplished their one or two shovels, they would run off the roof and get out of the heavy lead suits, whereafter many of them would begin to bleed from their orifices and vomit profusely. As is typical in cases of radiation poisoning, the symptoms would then often subside for a while, only to return days later, causing many to fall ill with horrendous health problems.
Many of these men died or suffered grave effects and cancer, while countless others fathered children with birth defects. While many mutations are found throughout the region, one has become pervasively common: Chernobyl Heart Syndrome — a condition where babies are born with two small holes in the heart — a defect that arises from exposure of mother, father, and/or fetus to the radioactive element cesium. Since cesium mimics potassium, it is carried to the heart where it maims, destroys and twists heart tissue.
Nobody knows how many people have died from Chernobyl for sure, and this number has been hotly contested for years. Fallout from the episode traveled far and wide — over Europe and around the globe — raining down in places known and still unknown. Numbers as insultingly low as 64 and as high as 985,000 have been tossed about over the decades by different groups and researchers, without any consensus ever being reached.
For most of the radioisotopes released, medical science has firmly said there is no safe amount to be exposed to — period. But cancer doesn’t come wearing a stamp saying “your cancer came from a radioactive particle you inhaled or ingested from Chernobyl 30 years ago” — or that your parents inhaled 30 years ago.
Though governments and regulatory agencies have set “safe level” thresholds for exposure (numbers that have steadily and quietly increased over the years) — medical science says something that conflicts with that approach entirely. Epidemiology tells us there is no safe amount of radiation to encounter whatsoever — even the slightest exposure increases the risk of cancer.
Internal particle emitters lodged in tissue, pose the greatest threat. And it is because of these well-known and understood dangers concerning radiation, that the original Chernobyl sarcophagus was constructed in the first place.
The problem was, while the sarcophagus only had a life of half-a-century at best, the uranium inside it has a life of 45 billion years — just a slight difference in shelf-life there.
It wasn’t even twenty years after the disaster when the Ukrainians discovered the shoddily constructed structure, cobbled together under the most frantic of emergency circumstances, was rusting, degrading, and coming apart at the seems. Archival footage taken by Ukrainian researchers from inside the sarcophagus, shows gaping holes where birds would fly in and out at will, and where radon gas and other dusty isotopes were surely escaping.
CHERNOBYL NEW SAFE CONFINEMENT PROJECT
Even more scary, was (and still is) the possibility that the sarcophagus could collapse completely — an event that, if realized, could cause the equivalency of a nuclear meltdown all over again by sending heaps of radioactive dust high into the atmosphere to be circulated around the globe. So, in 1992, it was decided a new sarcophagus needed to be built.
But that project floundered on for years, stumbling at many turns and running into multiple funding issues along the way. Ground was finally broken on the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement (NSC) in 2010 and there have been many subsequent setbacks, but ultimately, a concerned consortium of international parties has pushed the $1.5 billion project along.
In the pre-construction stage, countries and agencies from around the world weighed in, and in the end voted, on what would be the best design and why. Ultimately, a huge arch that could be built offsite and then slid into place over the old structure was adopted — mainly to protect workers from being unnecessarily exposed to large doses of radiation.
The NSC is now nearing completion, and is expected to be fully constructed and in place sometime in 2017. New drone footage from RT’s Ruptly TV captures the eerie feeling as it cruises up and down the simply massive metallic arches — a new sarcophagus that unfortunately, under the best circumstances, will only last 100 years, at which point the world will have to go through this whole process all over again — continuing it’s Russian-doll-style plan of sarcophaguses inside of sarcophaguses.
Some say the only real hope here is that scientific breakthroughs in the near future will find a way to knock surplus neutrons out of the nuclei of the unstable radioactive elements inside, and exponentially accelerate the decay process. Though sounding good in theory, there are no proven devices known to EnviroNews that can achieve the acceleration of the decay of radioactive elements, by transformation into other elements. Many have theorized about this possibility, but the world is still left without a working system.
Due to the difficult decisions made by Gorbachev, and the valiant efforts of the many men who fought back against the melting reactor, only four percent of what could have been released from Chernobyl, actually was released. The rest is still bottled inside like an evil genie trapped in a bottle — a genie who will live on for millions and billions of years. Keeping that in mind, we ask you this: What if two massive 747s would have come crashing into Chernobyl’s sarcophagus, instead of the World Trade Center? What would the situation look like today? What about the rockets and other weapons of war flying around in Ukraine? What about asteroids? What about once-in-a-century natural disasters? What about, what about, what about…