In August 1972, a grandiose construction began on Polissya Sands. Almost 10,000 builders gathered in one place to witness the laying of the first cube of concrete under the main building of the future Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
The press was full of newspaper headlines on the progress of construction: “The First of 200 Thousand”, “Student Building”, “Awards are given”, “Five Days in Four Days”, “Housewarming, Comrades”, “Towards the Anniversary”, “By the Law of Friendship”, “At the shock Komsomol construction site”, “Representatives of fraternal peoples” and many others.
A new city of Pripyat was built for the construction workers of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and its future workers. Thousands of square meters of housing were commissioned, schools, kindergartens and libraries were built.
The builders of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have undertaken another socialist obligation to commission the first power unit with a capacity of 1 million kilowatt hours ahead of schedule, to the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution. The official act of taking it into operation was signed on December 14, 1977. The development of the first power unit of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant took 8 months, the second – 5 months. It was launched in November 1978. The third power unit was launched in December 1981. And almost two years later, in 1983, the fourth power unit came into operation.
The “peaceful” atom of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was until April 26, 1986. A terrible accident occurred on the eve of the May Day holidays. It claimed hundreds of lives, left many people without a home, devastated the surrounding lands, and polluted rivers.
The Chernobyl accident is one of the largest environmental disasters of our time. The former USSR leadership first tried to hide the scale of the tragedy. The first report of the Chernobyl accident appeared in the republican press only on April 29, 1986, and in the central union press on April 30, in which it was reported from the Council of Ministers of the USSR that:
“An accident occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, one of the nuclear reactors was damaged. Measures are being taken to eliminate the consequences of the accident. The victims are assisted. A government commission has been created.”
There were no reservations about the threat to the health and life of the population. In the following April-May days, the press published only mean messages on behalf of the Council of Ministers of the USSR that the situation at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is controlled, a set of technical measures is being taken, everything is being done to eliminate the consequences of the accident, only two people were killed and 197 were hospitalized, of which 47 already left the hospital. On April 30, 1986, the Council of Ministers announced the evacuation of the city of Pripyat and three more settlements adjacent to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Persuaded ambassadors, reassured diplomats, encouraged the press
At this time, some agencies in the West began to express concern. On April 30 – May 1, representatives of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to reassure the ambassadors of England, Finland, the Netherlands, the charge d’affaires of France and Austria, assuring them that the situation at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was under control.
Ukraine solemnly celebrated the May Day holidays. Thousands of people marched on May 1, 1986, without suspecting what a threat these sunny spring days pose. An international cycling race “Under the Chestnuts” took place in Kiev. And only on May 2, the Chernobyl delegation was visited by a government delegation led by Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR N. I. Ryzhkov and a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU IS. K. Ligachev. After the trip of the government delegation to Chernobyl, in Moscow, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, a press conference was held for Soviet and foreign journalists, at which those present were informed in particular the following:
“… Disaster happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but lessons are gained not only in the course of achievements, but also as a result of tragedies. Such accidents also occurred in other countries, in particular in the USA in 1979, and with a much greater threat to humanity in the course of testing nuclear weapons.”
General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee M.S. Gorbachev spoke about the Chernobyl accident on May 15, 1986, and noted that “the Politburo took over the entire organization of work on the speedy liquidation of the accident”, that “the scientific, technical, economic capabilities of the whole country were brought into action”. He called on the world community to deepen cooperation within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and warned against the further use of nuclear weapons.
All publications in the Soviet press regarding the Chernobyl accident were rather restrained. Correspondents spoke about the heroic actions of firefighters, rescuers and employees of the nuclear power plant during the liquidation of the accident, about the work of doctors, about the country’s concern for immigrants, about the disinterested help of the multinational Soviet state, about the initiatives of the communists in overcoming the consequences of the accident, about the studies of Ukrainian scientists in nuclear energy, the resumption of the power plant, the construction of the sarcophagus, the probable causes of the accident, the deceitful Western press, and more.
The headlines of the newspapers of that time eloquently speak about the content of the publications: “They tested the strength test”, “Chernobyl NPP: the radiation situation is returning to normal”, “The situation is stabilizing”, “Where are you going, gentlemen: condemning misinformation and slander”, “Unworthy propaganda campaign in the West”,” How the doctors of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant act in a combat situation”,”They extended a helping hand to the liquidators …”, “Hurray, they handed over the sarcophagus to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant!”
And an open discussion of the causes and consequences of the Chernobyl accident began only in the post-Soviet press, since Ukraine gained independence.
The word “Chernobyl” does not leave the pages of newspapers even today. It reminds people, including the responsibility of the authorities, the environmental threat posed by an uncontrollable atom, its impact on the health of people and animals. The press constantly discusses the issues of social protection of the population and the problems of the liquidators of the Chernobyl accident affected by the consequences of the accident. The press also sees stereotypes, myths and taboos associated with the use of nuclear energy, a discussion of the need to concentrate the efforts of science and technology aimed at ensuring the safe development and use of atomic energy.
What are the different slogans in the process of eliminating the consequences of the accident, and today, at a time when nuclear power is one of those factors that keep socio-political life in constant tension. Accidents continue happening. Another nuclear disaster, the accident at Fukushima-1, once again demonstrated the vulnerability and potential danger of any nuclear facilities. The question of time remains: when will a peaceful atom be forever left in the past?