Until recently, Chernobyl and Pripyat would have hardly been called tourist cities. A few years ago, this could not even have occurred. They, like leprosy, went around and walked around the tenth road.
Why today it has become possible, and why, thirty-three years after the disaster, tourism for the Chernobyl NPP is its future. To do this, you need to go through this unusual route, talk with people, see Pripyat, or rather, what has left of it. You should meet with guides and stalkers, look inside the destroyed reactor, feel the internal psychological discomfort from the fluctuation of the radiation storage.
To overcome the fear of the absence of the usual zone of comfort and a sense of personal safety, to get used to the trembling of the piercing sound of the dosimeter, fixing the drops of the radiation background. Let’s understand, so why is Chernobyl today the number one route in Ukraine, and is it good?
Some researchers believe that society is deliberately exaggerating the threat of radiation, others – that the governments of some affected countries, seeking to save on costs, are avoiding financial obligations aimed at eliminating the consequences of the disaster. Therefore, they accuse, in particular, Ukraine of deliberately disseminating overly optimistic information.
What is the danger of modern Chernobyl?
According to scientists, the forecast is not encouraging. During the accident, a huge amount of various radionuclides was released into the atmosphere, and the decay period of some of them is from one week to 24,000 years.
The question arose – are all isotopes dangerous to humans? For example, iodine -131, penetrating and accumulating in the thyroid gland, causes radiation sickness, and as a result, leads to inevitable death.
But we should not forget that this radioactive isotope of iodine has a half-life of no more than eight days. That is, 200 hours after being released into the atmosphere, this isotope no longer had a critically detrimental property.
But plutonium-239 and plutonium-240 have a half-life of 24,400 and 6,560 years, respectively. According to official sources, the radiation background in the exclusion zone as of today has decreased by 10,000 times and is mainly determined by cesium -137 and strontium-90.
Isotopes VS Health
To do this, you can simply recall the chemistry lessons at school, and then it becomes easy to understand how these isotopes affect the human body. Symptoms of cesium poisoning are similar to signs of radiation sickness caused by iodine-131: overwork, diarrhea, nausea, general weakness and weight loss, and in severe cases, internal bleeding and death.
Strontium poisoning does not manifest itself so openly. It has accumulative properties in bones and bone marrow; it causes leukemia – blood cancer, the most insidious disease that almost always leads to death.
Plutonium is less toxic, and in the history of the nuclear industry, it led to the direct death of just one person. Moreover, when it enters the body with water, air can accumulate in the body and subsequently can cause cancer after decades.
As you can see, there are no reasons, to put it mildly, to dismissed lightly for such isotopes. Fortunately, the half-life of cesium and strontium, unlike plutonium, is a little over thirty years, so we have already experienced the worst.
The real victims of Chernobyl
Hardly anyone will undertake to name the mathematically accurate number of victims of the Chernobyl disaster. According to various estimates, it is from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of people. The thing is that radiation has a delayed effect.
Its consequences, such as thyroid cancer or leukemia, can manifest itself after years or decades. According to some independent studies, radiation has already killed about a million people in more than thirty years; this refers to diseases caused by a high dose of radiation. In addition, the average life expectancy of those who survived Chernobyl does not exceed 57-63 years.
The victims of fear
It turned out that not only radiation but also fear of it can kill. Natural and man-made disasters have not only physical consequences, but also do not pass unnoticed for the human psyche.
British scientists, studying the consequences of the psyche of atomic catastrophes, came to the conclusion that people often do not understand how radiation works and to whom it actually can harm. The film industry is throwing fuel on the fire, showing films about apocalypse and mutants living on the planet hundreds of years after a nuclear disaster.
This, in particular, to some extent became the cause of a wave of abortions that swept after 1986. Women of several Western European countries, succumbing to panic, began to massively get rid of unborn children.
According to the IAEA, the Chernobyl disaster caused abortion in 120 thousand cases across Europe. Although in practice, not a single case of a mutation in newborns has been reported.
In order for the radiation to affect the fetus so much, a woman had to stay for a certain period directly in the center of the maximum release of radioactive substances, that is, directly to the Chernobyl NPP at the time of the accident.
Damage to nature
What other victims the Chernobyl disaster led. There are many versions, some of them are fair, and some are the result of wild fantasies. The red forest around Pripyat and the corpses of animals really were, but only immediately after the accident. Today, nature has completely recovered, and the exclusion zone has become a real ecological reserve.
Cameras and photo traps capture large populations of rare animal species that abound in this area. Just animals – companions of human civilization such as mice, rats, pigeons, sparrows, did not appear in this zone.
Therefore, it is safe to say that the radiation background in the Chernobyl zone, although slightly increased, still does not prevent animals from living and reproducing.
If the ecology around the Chernobyl NPP has returned to normal, then it is too early to say this about nuclear energy. The explosion of the 4th power unit at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant became a sentence for nuclear energy. A nuclear station is a phrase that causes today in society rather negative or, at least, disturbing associations.
Few people take into account research by scientists in the nuclear industry, with a host of scientific terms, because of their difficulty in perception by a simple person. But is nuclear energy so dangerous for ecology and man, as is commonly believed lately? Undoubtedly, only large solar power plants are safe. But, in order to provide megalopolises of the whole globe with electricity, they are not enough yet.
An alternative to a nuclear power plant is TPP – a thermal power plant. But in this case, not everything is smooth. American scientists concluded that in America alone, about 4,000 deaths per month can cause combustion products of coal, gas, and even biological fuel, which in the form of solid impurities and microparticles come out of the pipes of thermal power plants as smoke.
Human lungs inhale about 15 kilograms of air per day. The smallest particles contained in the atmosphere enter our blood directly, the lungs are simply not able to filter them out. Such foreign particles in the circulatory system cause cardiovascular disease, lead to the formation of blood clots and tumors.
According to NASA, replacing nuclear power plants with TPPs would save about 2 million human lives. But after the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, the idea of building new nuclear power plants, or replacing old thermal plants with nuclear ones, is doomed to failure.
A cruel lesson of Chernobyl
Of course, the Chernobyl accident is the worst technological disaster in the history of civilization. Its causes and consequences, even today, after 33 years, require the most serious analysis and study. This is a cruel lesson that we must learn, at least for the sake of the safety of future generations.
It is time to understand that it is more advisable to invest not in an arms race, but in the development of alternative safe energy. After all, even super modern nuclear power plants, much more advanced than Chernobyl, cannot be considered completely safe. The proof of this is the accident at the Japanese Fokushima-1 speaker. But to succumb to panic, to believe unverified rumors is also not worth it.