The Chernobyl tragedy of 1986 is one of the most significant events in the world. She radically influenced the course of the further history of mankind. Devastating blow to agriculture, associated with the confiscation of land from peasants in the early 1930s, did not solve the problem of malnutrition and impoverishment of the population of the Soviet Union.
The only way to solve the food problem was the export of oil. The post-war world was dynamically developing. Oil demand grew rapidly along with oil prices. The proceeds from the sale of oil were sufficient for the purchase of food and consumer goods. They were sorely lacking in the Union to meet the minimum needs of the population. However, this revenue was tiny for the innovative development of the economy.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan began in 1979. This ten-year war intensified the confrontation between the Soviet Union and Western countries. Moreover, it laid down a heavy burden on the country’s economy. The situation in it became critical. It reached an impasse when the United States negotiated with Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, that oil prices would collapse.
As a result, from December 1985 to April 1986, oil prices fell threefold. The sale of oil continued to be a profitable business for Saudi Arabia. However, for the Soviet Union, such a drop in prices became a real financial and economical disaster. The flow of petrodollars almost stopped.
The lack of food
There was no money to buy food abroad. The war in Afghanistan, unpopular domestically and harmful to the external image, dragged on. Its price grew, and the prospects became more and more uncertain. “Perestroika” continued in the country. The political activity and courage of the population quickly gained momentum.
In addition to political factors, the fall in oil prices had a serious economic basis – the rapid growth of nuclear energy.
From 1970 to 1986, the production of electricity from nuclear power plants increased tenfold. During this time, their share in the world’s energy balance increased to 15%, continuing to grow rapidly. Its share was close to 50% in some of the world’s leading countries. This electricity was much cheaper than from any other source, and environmentally friendly. There were no greenhouse gases, and the environment was not polluted. Moreover, the authorities didn’t remove huge areas of land from agricultural use.
For comparison, one standard nuclear power plant unit can be replaced with solar panels that cover an area of 100 square kilometers. Even without taking into account losses from misuse of land, the cost of solar electricity is about ten times higher than that produced at nuclear power plants.
We should note that the natural reserves of uranium, used at modern nuclear power plants, are several times higher by its energy capacity than the reserves of oil. At the same time, technologies for the use of uranium began to develop. Thanks to this fact, the energy reserves of mankind became practically inexhaustible.
The use of such uranium required the creation of a new, more complex, type of reactor: a fast neutron reactor. Such scientific programs were well funded due to their colossal practical prospects. If the state of euphoria regarding nuclear energy continued further, we would witness the practical use of fast neutron reactors now.
That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
The Soviet Union didn’t expect the sharp drop in oil prices. This situation could drag on for a long time, or even forever. An economic catastrophe with a social explosion was inevitable. The country could lose control. The impending economic collapse required extraordinary actions. Oil prices had to be raised under any conditions and to reverse the negative attitude of Western countries towards the Soviet Union because of the war in Afghanistan.
It was necessary, if not to return respect for the country, then to arouse at least sympathy for it, as a result of some very respectful circumstances. It seemed that it was impossible to complete these two tasks in a short time. However, the fourth power unit of the ChNPP in Ukraine exploded on April 26, 1986. On this day, both of these tasks were unleashed.
Oil prices immediately went up. They almost doubled in a few months. Soviet oil again became a highly profitable export product. The attention of the world community has switched from the war in Afghanistan to the Chernobyl tragedy. The Soviet Union began to generate massive sympathy. There was also a third, internal, result of this tragedy.
Image losses of the KPSS
The Communist Party has suffered a colossal blow to its image. The party never recovered from it. There was no direct fault of the Communist Party in the Chernobyl tragedy. However, people were used to making her responsible for everything that happened. Those who were striving to remove the party from power got a real chance for this on April 26, 1986.
It is well-known that the professional level and the level of moral qualities of the “happy” holders of party cards of the CPSU were not too high.
On the other hand, the State Security Committee adhered to the practice of positive selection of personnel. The best graduates from different universities staffed the KGB. This had an almost unlimited number of employees with scientific degrees and titles. It was the special services of the Soviet Union that were the locomotive of “perestroika”.
The bulk of the party workers did not understand well what was happening. It just dutifully went with the flow. The main goal of “perestroika” in 1985-1991 was the modernization of the hopelessly backward country and its integration into the world community. The choice of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant for dubious experiments, which, in the end, ended in an explosion, was not accidental.
Did the Chernobyl accident cause the collapse of the USSR?
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant certainly delayed the collapse of the Soviet Union. This fact made it inevitable in the version in which it took place.
Firstly, similar experiments have already been carried out three times at the Chernobyl NPP. They happened in 1982, 1984, 1985. The test programs provided for a gradual increase in the extremeness of the reactor operation mode. All of them were unsuccessful. However, they gave rich information about the behavior of this type of nuclear reactor in extreme conditions.
Secondly, the proximity of Kiev could significantly increase the tragic consequences of a possible accident. This was important for the external political use of the future tragedy. Thirdly, if the accident turned out to be even more widespread, Kiev would fall into the evacuation zone. Ukraine could practically be left without a capital. This means without a national revolution. Fourth, the accident could completely undermine the vitality of the Ukrainian nation. Ukraine has already suffered enough from two genocides: hunger and war.
Experts believe that Kiev was lucky that, together with the fourth, the technologically connected third power unit of the ChNPP did not explode. Fortunately, the intensity of the nuclear reaction in nuclear fuel as a result of the thermal explosion of the 4th reactor was insufficient for a nuclear explosion. The molten nuclear fuel did not get into the zone under the reactor, filled with water. This did not entail a colossal release of radioactive aerosols into the environment.
And many more terrible things could happen, but did not happen. “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” Nietzsche said. As a result, instead of being left without a capital on the eve of significant events, we received a radiation-activated capital that was rapidly maturing to lead a national revolution.