Chernobyl and Pripyat

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The Nuclear Accident
On the 26th of april 1986 there was an accident at reactor number 4 near Chernobyl and Pripyat. At first the soviet government didn’t tell the people about the dangerous accident. Two days later, on the 28th of april, high levels of radiation were being measured at a nuclear facility in Sweden. Investigation of the measurements told the Swedish that the radiation did not come from it’s own reactor but was from a foreign source.

Swedish meteorologists found that the radiation had to come from the Soviet Union. After long diplomatic arguing between Sweden and the Soviet Union, Moscow decided to tell the radiation came from an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNNP).

The history of Chernobyl
Chernobyl was a small village where some Jewish people lived since the yeah 1200. During the second World War they where all deported and killed by the Germans. In 1970 the USSR or former Soviet Union started a Nuclear Energy production facility on the place where the village Chernobyl once was. Four nuclear reactors were built. They all had a maximum power output of 1000 MegaWatt. In 1977 production at the first reactor started. Once the other tree reactors were in operation there was a need for more energy. The government decided to build two more reactors on the site. They had to be in started to produce electricity in november 1986.
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During the building of the first four reactors the city Pripyat was being built for the workers of the facility. The city had the slogan “Healthy people are good for the country” and had to be an example for the rest of the country. It had all the luxury which was not common for people of the Soviet Union at that time. There where supermarkets where people could buy fresh fruit, meat, soap and other luxury. Beautiful roses grew all over the city.

The Nuclear Accident
On the 26th of april 1986 there was an accident at reactor number 4. At first the soviet government didn’t tell the people about the dangerous accident. Two days later, on the 28th of april, high levels of radiation were being measured at a nuclear facility in Sweden. Investigation of the measurements told the Swedish that the radiation did not come from it’s own reactor but was from a foreign source.

The evacuation
24 hours after the accident took place the government decided to evacuate all the 137.000 people in a radius of 30 km from the plant. After 36 all people were evacuated. The people were told they could get back home in about a week. Most of them only took a suitcase with some clothes leaving all precious belongings at home for being plundered by thieves.

The building of the sarcophagus
The radiation of the reactor was dangerous high and nuclear particles were spread high into the air, contaminating most of the western European continent. This had to be stopped as soon as possible.

The government decided to build a sarcophagus cladded with lead and placed it over reactor number 3 and 4. This had to prevent leaking nuclear fuel and particles into the atmosphere. The sarcophagus was hastily constructed by Chernobyl liquidators. It had to be built very fast because the engineers which had to build the sarcophagus were getting deadly doses of radiation. Because of the speed at which it was build, it was known it didn’t last forever.

Eventually, in 2013 a part of the sarcophagus collapsed on the turbine-hall. After the collapse radiation measurements at the site didn’t increase.

The New Safe Confinement (NSC or New Shelter)
Because of the bad construction and the quick decay of the sarcophagus a new sarcophagus has been made. The new version has to last for the coming 100 years. It was placed over the reactors on the 29th of November 2016. It is also intended to allow a future demolition of the old sarcophagus and reactor.

The NSC is designed and built by the French consortium Novarka with 50/50 partners Vinci Construction Grands Projets and Bouygues Travaux Publics.

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The total cost of the confinement and demolition, of which the New Safe Confinement is the most prominent element, is estimated to be around €2.15 billion (US$2.3 billion). The New Safe Confinement alone accounts for €1.5 billion.

There were 2000 workers a day building the new confinement. They could only work for two hours a day because of the high radiation. After this short period they were traveling home to the place. They could only work for 15 days a month.

The nuclear power plant produced electricity till late 2000 because of the high demand of energy in the Ukraine. After that it was shut down.

facts:
– 30 km exclusion zone: 2600 km² Ukraine, 2200 km², 188 villages in total
– people who got back to their homes (april 2015): 162
– average age of people who got back to their homes in the zone 86, average age in Kiev: 60 (probably due to high stress levels and low bacterial immunity)
– workers zich built the confinement: 2000, 2500 people worked on the site to dismantle the other 3 reactors, 3500 in other functions working as cook, finance and administration, security, shops, disposal of nuclear waste…

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What are radiation levels?
Radiation is being measured in microsievert (μSv). Most people do not know that radiation is everywhere around us. average levels are between 0.08 en 1 μSv per hour. Average background levels are about 0.15 μSv/u in open air.

Background radiation levels are somewhat higher in buildings because of granite which contans traces of radion, a gas which emits radiation. Most granite also contains about 10 to 20 particles per million radioactive uranium.

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